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Outdoor Education

Amy Casaldi Uncategorized

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Over a decade ago when I started teaching sixth grade one of my first questions were about the school’s science camp program.  I was teaching in the same district I had attended as a sixth grader and remembered the major event science camp was. I also had student taught at a school in the same district the previous year and was able to attend and teach at science camp as a student teacher.  I was ready and excited to plan and execute a few days of outdoor education for my new school.

 

I quickly learned I had arrived one year too late.  The previous school year had been the final year science camp had been a capstone to students’ elementary education.  The reason…funding. It was explained to me that in the nineties science camp field trips had been funded through state and district budgets.  I asked my mom if there was a cost when I attended science camp in the nineties and she couldn’t recall but said if there was it wasn’t a memorable amount.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the way and as budgets were cut science camp costs and funding was shifted to being the school’s total responsibility. Some schools could afford to continue the program, others couldn’t.  I also have since learned that many science camps were also cut due to the rising costs and the constant addition of responsibilities onto the teacher’s shoulders. It takes a lot of work to plan and execute a quality camp experience and teams have to decide where to put their time in the many programs and initiatives that occur each year.

 

Still, there are a few science camps that schools run.  From talking with educators in other districts this is typically done in fifth or sixth grade, typically the end of the student’s elementary experience depending on whether the district has a middle school or junior high model.  These camps are typically two to three days and involve going somewhere up in the mountains. They focus on the science standards but also have a lot of social-emotional experiences from camp skits and cheers to the independence of being away from home for a night or two.  

 

After researching there was not any research I could find about the specific benefits of school science camps, but there are many good reasons for camp and a student’s educational experience including but not limited to (11 Lasting Benefits of Summer Camp):

 

  1. Camp helps students build a specific interest
  2. Camp eliminates and reinvents categories students may find themselves in socially
  3. Camp allows for a deep dive into new skills
  4. Camp leads to a new type of friendship building
  5. Camp helps with mental and physical stimulation
  6. Camp reinforces independence and empowerment
  7. Camp allows for confidence to be reinforced by success
  8. Camp leads to creativity, free of judgment
  9. Camp builds all-around resilience
  10. Camp instills appreciation and gratitude
  11. Camp is fun and entertaining

 

Furthermore, now having been at a school that does have science camp for the sixth-grade students, this three-day experience immerses students in the outdoors.  Many times this is students’ first experience outside of the city area, the first time in the mountains, seeing so many stars at night, and even experiencing snow when it has snowed some years.  As I read more about outdoor education, here are “10 Ways that Outdoor Learning Benefits your Child:”

 

  • develop reflective and inquisitive thinking along with problem-solving approaches in ‘real’ situations
  • encourage holistic development of children
  • develop resilience and adaptability in occasionally adverse circumstances
  • allow children to become more able to identify hazards and risks
  • develop a love, appreciation, and respect for nature and all that is living
  • develop an understanding of how we can look after our environment
  • develop self-awareness, confidence, and self-esteem
  • develop collaborative-working and communication skills
  • provide positive health benefits – both physically and mentally – and assist gross and fine-motor development
  • develop a lifelong love of the outdoors

 

Does your school offer a camp experience?  Is it part of a club or for the entire class?  Do you send your own children to an outdoor camp experience?  Share your experiences in the comments.

 

References:

10 Ways the Outdoor Learning Benefits your Child, retrieved from https://www.independentschoolparent.com/school/outdoor-learning-benefits/

 

11 Lasting Benefits of Summer Camp, retrieved from https://www.idtech.com/blog/benefits-of-summer-camp-infographic

 

An Arizona native, I earned an M.Ed. in Elementary Education from Grand Canyon University, B.S. Marketing, B.S. Business Process Management and an M.Ed. in Gifted Education from Arizona State University. I have spent the past 11 years working in public education, K-12 and higher education, with nine of those years spent in the Gilbert Public Schools district. As a 5th grade teacher at Islands Elementary, I am passionate about student relationships and engagement, demonstrating that passion by bringing the outside world into the classroom. I have served on numerous committees including the Arizona State Standards Committees and district curriculum committees as well as serving most recently as an Arizona Hope Street Group Fellow. I was awarded the Teacher of the Year Award from my school, a scholarship from Engineering is Elementary to the Museum of Science in Boston, and a Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute Scholarship. When not working, I enjoy traveling and hosting parties with my husband Heath, laughing at our two silly cats, and anxiously awaiting my National Board portfolio scores.

Comments 3

  1. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    This was the first year in a long looonnnng time that our school did not run its Outdoor Education program for 8th graders. It was always an optional program and parents paid the full amount to fund it, although I am sure Stuco and PTA helped as well. It was heartbreaking to see the amount of planning and communication that happened, and yet this year the numbers just could not justify the trip. It was cancelled just a couple of weeks beforehand.

    Our school is in one of those suburban areas where the socioeconomics have changed drastically over the past 15 years. The families simply can’t afford to pay. I think the cost was $250-300 per student.

    Have you read Last Child in the Woods?

    Thanks for this post!

    1. Amy Casaldi

      I am so sorry to hear the program had to stop, but I can understand why. I have not read Last Child in the Woods but I will have to check that out.

      1. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

        For sure. Another thing I have reflected on since coming to this school and seeing the program at work is that as much as I would fully enjoy helping out with one of these types of programs, as a teacher who is also a parent it is just not practical and doesn’t seem fair to my own family to leave town for three days to be with other people’s kids in the woods (for no extra pay.) I think about how many of the amazing programs in schools rely on the childless adults in the school (or the ones with adult kids). I guess there are phases to everyone’s career! 15 years ago I would have wanted to be in the mountains with them! I would still want to, but I wouldn’t choose to.

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