Wow, I can't believe that the season is over! In 12 short weeks we went from icy winter to abundant spring and had the opportunity to watch our natural areas change in so many amazing ways! This was our first time doing a full session of day only programs and while it had some unexpected challenges, all in all, it was a roaring success! We ended up serving 8,578 6th grade students and 218 High School Student Leaders. Each week we visited 2 of our Outdoor School sites (Cedar Ridge & Trickle Creek), in addition to dozens of different schools, and over 15 regional parks and natural areas!
Our lessons centered around connecting with the natural world, nature journaling, observation, lots of games, and of course an energetic campfire whenever possible. Our students were thoughtful and engaging and so glad to be doing experiential activities in the outdoors, after two years of navigating school during a pandemic.
We are hopeful that this will be our final season in an alternative Outdoor School format and we look forward to returning to residential programs again in fall! Thank you to everyone who has supported Outdoor Schools during these past two years, especially our partner school districts, our High School Student Leaders, and our wonderful, dedicated staff.
Have a wonderful summer and we look forward to connecting again in the fall!
This week we served seven different schools across three districts (Beaverton, Hillsboro, and Scappoose) and visited nine different parks, natural areas, schools, and Outdoor School sites!
This week we served four different schools across four different districts (Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Seaside, and Hillsboro) and visited ten different schools, parks, and natural areas across the region!
We are now just over half way through our Spring 2022 session and while Day Programming is different than our traditional residential Outdoor School, it has still been an amazing time working with 5th and 6th graders and connecting them to the natural world.
Sometimes people ask the question, "What makes Outdoor School special" and there are just so many answers! But a few of the highlights are:
This week we served seven different schools in four different school districts (Beaverton, St. Helens, Oregon City, and Hillsboro) and visited eleven different schools, parks, and natural areas across the region!
One of our favorite Outdoor School activities is Nature Journaling! We love to give students opportunities to develop these skills whenever we have the chance. One of the best resources we have found is the website for John Muir Laws: Nature Stewardship through Science, Education, and Art. There are tons of free resources available for a lifetime of journaling for all ages! Do you like to nature journal? If so feel free to share your work in the comments!
This week we served nine schools across three districts (Forest Grove, Sherwood, and Hillsboro) and visited fourteen different schools, parks, and natural areas across the region!
This week we served nine schools across five districts (Beaverton, Hillsboro, Jewell, Gaston, and Forest Grove) and visited Fifteen different schools, parks, and natural areas in the region! It was a week filled with fungi, and wild animals, and so many blooming flowers!
One of our favorite activities to introduce to students is called the "Sit Spot." Sit Spots are at way for students to spend a little time being still and quite while they observe and reflect on the natural world. Many students use the time to write or draw in their journals, to sit quietly and listen to the sounds of the forest, or to just spend time reflecting on the experiences of Outdoor School. Many students report that spending this time in a Sit Spots is one of the highlights of their day.
"I had no idea you could hear so many birds when everyone stops talking"
"It was so peaceful to just sit and be in nature. I feel calm now"
"I wish I could spend more time here, it was just so beautiful."
The best part about Sit Spots, is that you can do them just about anywhere! We always encourage students to incorporate sit spots into how they spend time outdoors, in their backyards, or in nearby parks. It's amazing what you begin to notice when you slow down, take a seat, and just observe! We recommend spending at least ten minutes in a sit spot, but the longer you are there, the more amazing the experince can be!
This week we served Meadow Park Middle School from Beaverton SD and visited Cedar Ridge, Henry Hagg Lake, and Rood Bridge. As always, we made time to explore our surroundings, played games, and continued to watch spring emerge in the woods.
“Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.”
― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
Week 2: March 14-18 Learning to Observe, Ask Questions, Make Connections, and Use Evidence in Explanations
Spring 2022 Week 2: We served 8 schools in 3 districts (Lake Oswego, Hillsboro, and Silver Falls) across 13 different parks and natural areas in NW Oregon! While winter is still holding on in our region, signs of spring are becoming increasingly evident! As students explore and make observations, the change of season is all around reminding us that nothing is permanent and life is cyclical.
One of our favorite scientific observation activities to introduce on day 1, is called: "I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me Of (and "I Think Maybe"). This observation routine helps students learn to make careful observations and learn to distinguish observation from opinion or declarative statement. When students use the statement "I Notice" it helps them understand that observations are connected to our senses and that anyone can make an observation if they slow down and pay attention: "I notice this is brown. I notice it feels smooth. I notice it smells musty, etc."
Once students have an opportunity to make observations about something in nature or a natural phenomenon, they are encouraged to ask questions and wonder about what they observe. For example: "I wonder what tree this leaf comes from? I wonder if bugs made these holes in the bark? I wonder what eats this plant?" "I Wonder" statements give students an opportunity to ask questions and become curious about the world around them; they build skills of inquiry and student self-efficacy.
After students have made careful observations and have started to ask questions, they are prompted to begin asking themselves what they are reminded of: "This reminds me of the tree in my back yard. This reminds me of hair. This reminds me of the time I collected berries with my family. This reminds me of the sound of the ocean." "This Reminds Me Of" statements gives students an opportunity to build connections with prior learning as well as to connect meaningfully with their own life experiences and cultural knowledge. This is also the beginning step of pattern recognition, which is an important scientific skill.
Finally, students are prompted to make explanations based on evidence, using the language of uncertainty: "I think maybe a bug ate this leaf, because I see bugs crawling on it and it looks like they are eating. I think maybe this tree is a Western Hemlock because its needles are all different lengths and it has small cones (as described in the field guide). I think maybe that bird is building a nest because I see it carrying sticks in its mouth." Using the language of uncertainty helps students begin to base their claims on evidence, while still being open to other explanations, an important scientific skill that we work on throughout the week.
Nature is filled with opportunities to explore, observe, ask questions, and make connections. We are always grateful that we get to spend time in these places and learn by interacting with the natural world in meaningful ways. Outdoor School is a place to learn and grow while getting to know ourselves, our peers, and the outdoors just a little bit better.
Spring 2022 Week 1: We served seven different schools across four districts (Beaverton, North Clackamas, Silver Falls, and Estacada) in twelve different parks and natural areas in NW Oregon! Whew it was a big week with lots of games, science, songs, and time exploring the outdoors! The week brought us every kind of weather: rain, fog, sun, wind, and more, which made each day it's own kind of adventure. While it is still winter in Oregon, we started to see the first signs of spring, such as the bright green leaves of the Oso Berry (Indian Plum)! We also found many types of Lichen and fungus! Even though Outdoor School looks a little different this session, it feels really good to be working with students outdoors again and gives us hope we can be fully residential next fall.
We have a wonderful group of staff excited to work with students this spring during Outdoor School (Day Program Edition!) and we would like to introduce them to you here!