Fortunately, these small shoe prints were not left by zombies but rather by the students of Foster Elementary Outdoor School 2013! Outdoor School is typically a week of activities and learning outside of the classroom setting. It is in an outdoor environment such as a camp, which gives them the students an opportunity to learn and explore in new ways. Children have only one chance in their life to have an experience like this, and the memories and knowledge gained during it will stick with them for many years. While an experience like this can be very amusing, it’s important to ask, “Is this really adding value to a student’s education?”
My elementary school didn’t offer Outdoor School, but in high school, I volunteered as a counselor at Foster Elementary Outdoor School. At that time, being an elementary teacher was just an idea to me. My biggest motivation to be a counselor was to play with kids and not have to go to high school for a whole week. Now, four years later, as a senior in the Elementary Education program at BYU, I volunteered once again at Foster Elementary Outdoor School. I went to gain more experience working with students. During that week, I captured a whole new perspective on Outdoor School. I watched the teachers and their different teaching styles. I understood the different teaching techniques they used. I could see the core subjects being integrated into this fun-filled camping experience. It was like I was behind the scenes of movie.
Here’s a few things I found the kids learned through their experience at Outdoor School (whether they knew it or not!):
Real Life Applications
Survival: Survival was the main concept being taught during Outdoor School, but to capture what children have an interest in, the week was centered around “Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse.”
They learned valuable skills including building shelters, fires, and weapons, what to bring with them when they are hiking and camping, and what to do when they are lost in the woods (a Search and Rescue Team came as guest speakers).
Being Away from Home: Going to Outdoor School was many of the students first time away from home. It can be really difficult for them to be without their parents. This experience can really help some children with their emotional development by giving them the chance to deal with their homesickness and attachment to their parents.
Teamwork/Cooperation: The students may be able to work together in a classroom setting, but what about in a setting outside the classroom and with other students? This outdoor school experience typically combines all the fifth and sixth grade classes together in the elementary school for a fun-filled, educational week.
Integrating Core Subjects
Science: Being outside in the woods, the students were able to go on nature hikes where they learned about vegetation and wildlife that are native to the area in which they live.
Geography: All school year the students learned the different countries and their capitals. At the end of the week of Outdoor School was the “Geography Bee” where all the students got in a long line and if the teacher said a country, the
student had to say its capital and if a capital was said, the student said the country it is in. If they couldn’t name the country or capital in five seconds, they were out.
The last person left won the “Geography Bee” trophy. This was like their “final” for geography.
History: The students learned a little about the history of the Spanish Armadaand then were given a challenge to create their own boat. One person in their team had to then get their boat across a section of the lake without touching it.
Other Subjects that Help Teach the Core
Arts: A great way to wake the kids up and get them ready to start another long, fun day was to dance! Morning dance was a favorite among the students.
Physical Education: These kids have energy! They were running everywhere! Picture scavenger hunt, puzzle piece hunt, zombie gold rush, … Those were just a few of the fun games that they played. They also had the opportunity to rock climb, canoe, swim, and wallow in a mud pit!
So, is outdoor school a week for kids to just play outside the classroom? Nope. In fact, it is it a week of fun and valuable education. From my experience, I say let’s change it up, get them involved, and create an Outdoor School experience! What kind of activities would you do at Outdoor School to incorporate the core subjects?