Saturday, October 1, 2022

Building Leaders Through Outdoor Education

I ran into this quote the other day and it really spoke to me.

It took me back a few schools ago (probably to the tune of 20 years or so), and I am reminded of a former 3rd grader of mine. (Let's call him Trey.) 

Trey was a struggling student in my class. A medicated ADHD student who's impulsivity got him in a thick of trouble every time he turned around. His parents were frequent fliers for parent conferences with me. Trey had a strong ability to think outside the box, he made great connections, and you could see he had an incredible entrepreneurial spirit. But he struggled. Somewhat academically, but mostly behaviorally. He just had to get from 3rd through 12 grade of school without falling victim to his own demise.

In the spring that year, our 2 third grade classes decided as a grade level to build a butterfly garden on campus. Administration gave us a plot of land that we needed to clear and a budget for some pollinator plants and milkweed. Here is where Trey came to life. It bears repeating--here is where he really thrived! He did the work of 3-4 people and got right down to business. He was a master with the shovel. He was the leader of that butterfly garden. My partner teacher and I talked a lot about Trey in this role and the other couple of kids that really shined during this project. What if we could have them out there every day for a half hour before school doing something like this!? It was completely their wheelhouse and it was leadership in action. 

Getting kids outside more in our classroom requires a bit of thinking outside the box. National Geographic has an excellent post on "backward planning." A big perk in planning and teaching this way: it gives students more agency and control in their own learning. Author and educator Alison Katzko gives four tips on how to achieve your best through backward planning in this article entitled ""How to Get Students Outside? Try Backward Planning" By making outdoor excursions part of your regular routine, and looking for curricular connections, you can meet the standards in ways that truly impact your kids! 

She has a second article in the series called "Why Abi Henneberry Takes Her Class Outside Each Day". Not only does this activity bring hands-on learning and engagement, but it also builds empathy, community, and helps broaden perspectives. Again--all key features in leadership!!

Think of the leaders we as teachers can help shape and create!

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