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Outdoor education an important experience for students

Outdoor education an important experience for students

Outdoor education (OE) season is in full swing here at Stone Canyon. Trails are being hiked, rockets are ready to be launched and the night sky is waiting to be explored. I love OE season. Many of you are familiar with what we do here at Stone Canyon OE. Maybe your child has attended a trip, or maybe they are preparing for their first overnight OE trip.
Many more of you may be thinking, “What in the world is outdoor education?” In a nutshell, classes of fifth or sixth graders visit for a three day, two night field trip. Students experience a lot of hands-on learning about science, leadership and the outdoors, all while we sprinkle in a bit of camp-like magic - campfires, cabin life, goofy songs, and s’mores.

Although OE is fun, we also know that it is an important experience for every single child. Why is OE an important experience? I like to break down its importance into four parts:

  1. Spending time outside actually improves performance in the classroom.
    The National Wildlife Federation issued a report (Back to School Back Outside) that found integrating outdoor exploration, environmental education, and unstructured time in nature can actually positively impact how students perform not only in a classroom, but on standardized tests as well. Teachers report that the science  we teach  at Stone Canyon provides a foundation for what their students will learn the rest of the year.
  2. OE allows students to significantly develop 21st century learning skills in a short amount of time.
    A study submitted by the American Institutes for Research focused on 255 sixth graders who attended OE programs in California. Teachers rated their students before and after their OE experience, and again six to ten weeks after the trip. A significant increase in self-esteem, conflict resolution, problem-solving, motivation to learn, behavior in class and relationships with peers was noted by teachers.
  3. The OE experience allows students to disconnect from technology and reconnect with their peers.
    Studies are out there; technology has negatively impacted the quality of our face-to-face communication. As technology becomes more accessible and integrated into our daily life, it’s difficult to see exactly how our interpersonal relationships have been affected.  At OE, all electronics are checked at the door. We encourage the students to talk, laugh and play together. The result: lasting memories and an increased ability to positively interact with each other on an interpersonal level.
  4. OE promotes a healthy lifestyle.
    According to a research summary compiled by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, “Learning outdoors is active and increases students’ physical, mental and social health. Access to nature has also been shown to decrease stress levels of both students and teachers.” At Stone Canyon, we spend our days hiking outside, stopping to appreciate the deer crossing through the woods.  We learn about the stars, and we also take time to appreciate just how magnificent the sky is. It is rejuvenating to spend a few days in the canyon with us.

OE is a once in a lifetime experience, and we work hard every day to create positive, long-lasting memories for students. From the smell of the cabin to the campfire story told by the counselor, I remember a hundred details about my 5th grade OE trip. I left with a bit more confidence, a new friend, and just a little bit better than I started. I will always be grateful for that experience, and am honored that I am a part of a team that provides that same experience  to thousands of excited students every year.

- Alicia Gerber is the High School Lead & Summer Camp Coordinator at Stone Canyon Outdoor EdVentures.  She is a diehard Green Bay Packers fan and spends most of her weekends enjoying all that Colorado has to offer.

November 2, 2016 | By smmaresh | Category: Operations_Happening
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