by Hazel Stark
For the third year in a row, all students at Harrington Elementary School got outside with Maine Outdoor School this spring. Each grade experienced a little over an hour outside exploring their nature trails and experiencing classroom content in a hands-on, place-based way.
The youngest students practiced their observation skills through scavenger hunts of spring life and the colors you can find in nature. They even did a science project where they compared the numbers of living and non-living things found in the spring and considered whether those numbers would change in a different season. One student requested that we hike silently for part of the program so we would be able to observe wildlife better. We were rewarded by a close-up view of a hermit thrush and a red squirrel!
The oldest students explored the diversity of plants and animals in the woodlands that surround their school in order to practice distinguishing differences among those species. They then drew careful sketches of animals and plants they found complete with detailed written descriptions and observations. Other groups of students played active games which modeled population dynamics of different animals native to Maine--deer, ravens, and robins--as they competed with one another for scarce resources.
We were most surprised by how much the students remembered from our time with them last year and even the year before! It just goes to show that fun, engaging, outdoor learning--even at just an hour per year--has lasting impacts. Just think about how much more of an impact more than one hour per year has!
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