My STEM Units

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Leaving Base Camp

Ahhh Fourth Grade.  Never boring, usually loud, mostly funny, sometimes messy and always engaging. 
Fourth grade left base camp today.  They branched out and walked outside.  Gasp!  Children need to be in a classroom; learning! 

Can they not learn outside?  Do they not gain much of their scientific knowledge by making observations and simple experiments with their environment?  I say they do.  And so does the research.  The article on Outdoor Learning is a lengthy one, but so worth the time.  Smith tells us, "Other research presents similar conclusions. A study by the State Education and Environmental Roundtable found that students participating in nature-based learning programs did better than their peers 72 percent of the time in measures of academic achievement, and that their attendance was 77 percent better than the control group." 

Imagine going on a camping trip and never leaving the tent.  Absurd, you might think.  You know that you would miss the splendor of the forest, the excitement of walking through nature, and the awe of finding that one special thing.  Maybe you went there to hike and upon reaching the mountaintop, you gained a whole new perspective on the valley below.  Or maybe you went to see the grandeur of ocean waves, but were awestruck by the minute creatures in the tide pools.  No doubt you learned new things and made new connections

Students scanning QR codes on the school Interpretive Trail
It's the same with the classroom.  All the learning does not occur within those four walls.  There is a whole world out there!  Now, with budgets and time constraints, you can't take field trips to the whole world, but there is so much more than just those four walls. While outside, children are moving their bodies. 
"This body-mind interaction is what stimulates brain cells to grow and connect with each other in complex ways.  This is the structural basis of your brain's memory capacity and thinking ability."
The lessons they are learning will hold longer and go deeper.  In fact, as we were walking out the trailhead, a school employee walked by and told us that he remembered the day this teacher took him on the trail for a fossil hunt.....20 years ago

In all my years of teaching, I have never had a former student come back and say, "remember that time we did page 632 in the blue workbook?!".  Worksheets aren't memorable.  But, stepping outside the box is.  Leaving base camp is. 

QR code on the school composting bin


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