What I find most interesting during any season at an outdoor education facility is always the same: the kids. In my past year of working in outdoor education, I have had endless conversations with students about how much they love being outside WHILE learning! At Upham Woods, I have had the opportunity to let kids crawl through caves cut from sandstone aged 250 million years old. One student was in complete awe that she had been able to touch something so old. I was able to educate another young student about the proper way to care for her new pet: a snake!
Many students have come through without ever having been in a canoe or gone hiking in their lives. Engaging students outside the classroom, getting them more “hands-on,” is something I find very special. They’re not in school, but they’re still learning. In addition, they gain experiences and skills not always found in the classroom! At 23 years old, the clearest memory I have from middle school 12 years ago is from my “outdoor ed.” field trip. I remember working through Spider’s Web and running through the woods finding everything on my nature scavenger hunt list.
Outdoor education is about letting kids get a little crazy while they learn! It’s an opportunity to immerse kids in nature; a unique experience for many who have become too used to relying on technology and pocket devices. Outdoor education is about disconnecting to connect. It’s about finding fish bones at the end of a hike and learning how we knew they were fish bones. It’s getting to hold a snake for the first time and learning that they aren’t slimy. It’s learning how to work together even when things get tough. I have seen children grow and mature in a matter of days because of programming that challenged them, put them out of their comfort zone, were new, and maybe even a little scary. Outdoor learning facilities provide a platform for those who learn differently and for those that need a new challenge. Upham Woods is one of those facilities.