I am disappointed as we near the beginning of school that neither the School Board nor our superintendent have yet to develop plans to incorporate outdoor-based education into our student and teacher activities.
Through my own experience, I have witnessed and utilized no better way for keeping our children both educated and healthy than by utilizing the wealth of learning opportunities that surround us with authentic, everyday-available opportunities for learning and doing while meeting the standards. Each of our school’s neighborhoods provides a treasure chest filled with history, social studies, science, etc. all tailor-made for engendering curiosity, research and for meaningful individual and cooperative ways to inspire and of course, meeting the standards.
As someone who has worked with and initiated projects utilizing what I called, “Site Specific Education,” I helped create and deliver curriculum based on curiosity and what can be learned from being outside. One such project was funded by a joint effort between the NEH, Disney and Gates Foundations and other funders for $500,000. During my five years as the director of this Site Specific Program, I watched confidence grow, higher order thinking skills enhanced, cooperation, mutual respect and ‘out of the box’ thinking flourish.
These curiosity driven, outdoor and neighborhood based programs are not only ways to encourage real-world learning, but is a healthy and an essential way to help break the grip Covid still has on our children’s education. While there are some wonderful ways teachers and parents have worked together to enhance our outdoor physical environment, we still must ask why our children have not been encouraged or permitted to be part of these projects’ planning, execution and utilization.
I ask us all to consider Site Specific Education for the benefit of all of us. Not only would our local population be introduced to the history and ecology of where we live, but we could learn to be contributors to each others’ learning while growing our sense of community and social and physical well being.
Towards this end, I would be happy to donate my time locally to help put this kind of practice in place. I could begin with an initial workshop for administrators, parents and/or teachers throughout the district that would consider Site Specific Education and its potential use in our district.
Please feel free to get in touch with me at MarcJoelLevitt@gmail.com, if you are interested.