Do you have wonderful childhood memories of playing in the outdoors? Perhaps you collected leaves and studied their shapes and colors, or you turned over rocks and logs along the creek looking for bugs, or you built castles on the beach with sand and shells. These playtimes in nature were an opportunity for you to learn about the natural world and make important discoveries about the world around you.
Children spend less time outdoors than past generations. Today, more children live in urban centers away from natural play spaces and they watch more television and play video games. These factors contribute to less time discovering the wonders of the natural world and fewer opportunities to learn about and practice real science. Educators are working to reverse this trend and support student learning in outdoor
The new California Science Framework describes the importance of outdoor learning experiences where students are engaged directly with nature. There is wide-ranging evidence to support the value of using natural environments, local communities, and other outdoor settings as a real-world context for science learning that engages student interest as they investigate places around them. The California classroom expanded to now include the Natural Classroom. What a great gift we are giving our students!
But where do teachers take their students for the outdoor learning experiences? The following locations offer great outdoor learning experiences and are just a few examples of local resources:
- The Schoolyard and Playfield
- School Gardens and local Farms
- City, County, and State Parks and beaches
- Preserves and designated open spaces with public access
- Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School
Rancho El Chorro offers one-day field programs for K-4th grade students and the residential program for 5-6th grade students. These programs promote student engagement with nature, teach students to think like scientists, and address the Next Generation Science Standards and the Environmental Principles & Concepts. In addition to building a strong foundation in science, the residential program is a unique educational experience that creates childhood memories that will last a lifetime.
Providing students with outdoor learning experiences is essential to building science literacy and in developing the environmental stewards of the future. We offer resources to support your efforts. And remember to keep your own childhood memories alive by regularly visiting the Natural Classroom near you!
Director of Environmental Education
Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School
San Luis Obispo County Office of Education