Monday, May 7, 2012

The outdoor classroom

So we went camping this past weekend, which we do all the time, so what? But with homeschooling on the brain, I am starting to look at everything a little differently. I realized how much learning occurs on a camping trip! We stayed for 2 nights and 3 days at a campground in the catskills that we have gone to for years. It is right on a stream and walking distance to town. In that short time, my girls learned:

How to build a campfire - what fire needs to start/grow
Money skills - counting money, identifying different coins,bills, paying for something
Identifying different trees & plants
Identifying different fish-they caught brown trout & rainbow trout
All about beavers - where they live, what they eat, what they build, how they build it
How streams can change/erode a landscape
Engineering - they built a bridge over a creek
Astronomy - it was the full moon, starts etc.

I am sure there is more. But this was what they learned in ONE WEEKEND. They learned it through experience, by doing, through participation, through natural events, and through their own interests. This kind of learning, which is self-motivated, is so much more meaningful than paper and pencil tasks.

This is something I tell the families I work with all the time (I am a special education teacher for early intervention). A young child learns through their senses and they learn best from the people they are most connected to. I frequently use the example of an apple. Sure, a child could learn about an apple from a book or the TV. However, think about how much MORE they learn by experiencing a REAL apple! They can see it, touch it, taste it, smell it, and feel it. Think about all of the language learned, the concepts learned, and the knowledge that comes from picking an apple off a tree versus reading Ten Apples Up On Top. How would you describe an apple learned from a book? They can be red, green or yellow, they are round, they grow on trees. How can you describe an apple that you actually went and picked? Apples are round and hard, They grow on tree branches and hang from their stems. You have to twist and pull the apple to get it off the tree. Apples can be red, yellow or green or red and yellow, or yellow and green, or red, yellow and green. They smell sweet and can taste sweet or tart. They are hard to bite and are crisp. The skin is a different texture than the flesh. Apple orchards are huge with lots of different apple trees. The trees have flowers before the apples grow. There are lots of bees around....... Quite different eh?! This is true of everything. To experience things first hand offers so much more meaning and more knowledge than any learning a book could give you.

So I encourage you to get your children out into the world. Take them places, let them experience things first hand - whether it be apple picking, a farm, an aquarium, camping, or on a trip to the city. Let them learn through experience - grow a plant, hatch butterflies, get a pet, build a fort. Realize that kids of all ages (and adults for that matter) learn the most when they are fully engaged with who they are learning from/with and with what they are learning.

Unplug your family and go do something! It's the best education yet.

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