President Obama designated June Great Outdoors Month to encourage Americans to take advantage of our rich, natural and cultural outdoor resources while being active outdoors. Fortunately, the first group of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools provides us many examples of innovative approaches to getting students active and learning outdoors year-round.
For example, at Evergreen Charter School in Asheville, N.C., the adventure physical education program includes rock climbing, white water rafting, camping and backpacking. At Thomas J. Waters Elementary in Chicago, students go on lengthy walks, dig potatoes, gather seeds and leaves, go fishing in Lake Michigan, and participate in organized runs. At North Shore Community School in Duluth, Minn., and Fishburn Elementary in Roanoke, Va., students tap maple trees every winter to enjoy with their breakfast.
The list goes on including schools that boast organic gardens, birdhouses built by students, an urban peach orchard, ponds, and even a native medicine wheel garden in Wahpeton, N.D.
Other ED Green Ribbon schools are encouraging students to get outdoors in their daily commute. At Grand View Elementary in Manhattan Beach, Calif., students are rewarded with hand stamps on Walk to School Wednesdays. Likewise, Bernard High School in Bernardsville, N.J. obtained a $300,000 Safe Routes to School Grant to build a sidewalk, helping more students in the community to commute safely on foot. Environmental Charter High School students in Lawndale, Calif., operate a bike repair shop encouraging more students and staff to cycle rather than drive.
These schools are taking advantage of a wealth of free teaching materials to assist them in outdoor curriculum development, including resources like:
- Bureau of Land Management’s Hands on the Land
- National Park Service Education Resources
- Fish and Wildlife Service Schoolyard Habitats
- NOAA National Marine and Protected Centers Education
- NOAA Ocean Guardian School Program
- USDA Agriculture In the Classroom,
- Get more free resources on the ED-GRS resources page.
And while schools may place an emphasis on outdoor, hands-on learning, parents can also teach these skills in their own garden or with a backyard campout.
Though June is National Outdoors Month, every month is a good time to teach students with hands-on and physical activities outdoors! Using the outdoors helps keep a child’s mind and body actively engaged in critical academic subjects. If we want to ensure that students are healthy, high performing and prepared for the challenges of the next century, they’ll need to stay fit and connected to the land.
Stay tuned to ED-GRS’ biweekly blogspot for more examples of how schools can use environment to teach green technologies, STEM and civic skills, as well as reduce school costs and improve student health. For now, ED’s facilities, health and environment ‘Green Team’ wishes all students and teachers a wonderful summer of outdoor exploring!