Outdoor Education & Its Importance in the LEAP Program
by Mitch McDonald, Upper School Math Teacher, LEAP Study Skills/ Outdoor Ed
As our 8th grade LEAP students prepare to transition to the 9th grade, there are many important skills they must work to improve and build upon. At Sparhawk we approach this transition from variety of aspects, both inside the classroom and out. Perhaps one of our most important out of the classroom experiences is our outdoor education program. On Mondays and Wednesdays the 8th grade works on projects of their own choosing outside on our campus. This year, students chose to work on clearing out trails behind the school so our community could explore and enjoy more of our campus. Other students are working to build grass huts and to create a low ropes team building course out in the woods behind Sparhawk.
While students enjoy the opportunity to get some fresh air, they are learning to be responsible, work as a team, and take ownership of their community to become better humans. Learning to use tools such as cutters and a bow saw safely, students can make real progress in their projects and see their hard work pay off. There is a sense of teamwork when we venture out together in sometimes not ideal weather conditions. 8th grade LEAP student Richard Lally said it best when asked what he thought the goal of outdoor education was when he said,” Going outside gives us a chance to learn hands on and do things school normally wouldn’t let us do.” In a Google centric world, the chance to release from the bind of technology to explore the outdoors gives students a different way to express themselves and practice 21st century skills that in some places have gone by the wayside.
The responsibility piece of outdoor education is a large portion of our focus. Sending detailed plans of their project to their teacher, discussing plans respectfully with classmates, and coming to class prepared are key aspects of being ready to learn in Outdoor Education. John Lubbock once said, “Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach of us more than we can ever learn from books.” We at Sparhawk believe that spurring the curiosity that lies within each of our students is our mission and will serve our students well as they take the LEAP into the 9th grade and beyond.