This week, I completed my first site visit with Muddy Sneakers and came back even more excited about this project. I went into the field two days and was wholly impressed with the quality of teaching, engagement of the kids, and as always, the shear beauty of Western North Carolina.
I was able to observe two “School in the Woods” days, which instructors use to introduce students to things like how to avoid poison ivy, how to use the bathroom in the woods, and how to use a compass. And, because Muddy Sneakers is all about teaching science, students completed their first science experiment testing the validity of the statement “Moss only grows on the north side of trees.” They engaged in the scientific process beautifully – generating related research questions and hypotheses, using their newly acquired (or honed) compass skills to collect data, organized results in groups, and reported their findings at the closing circle with the whole school.
I was glad I was able to see two separate schools. For being in such close proximity, these students were so different. One group was from outside of Hendersonville and made comments about how the stairs on the trail were like the ones in Mario. The next day, I shadowed a group from near the SC boarder who had all been hunting before. One (ten year old) girl exclaimed, “I hunt dear, and bear, AND turkey!” Students were ethnically and racially diverse, and from my limited observations seem to have a wide range of ways they relate to the environment!
I returned to Raleigh spinning with the possibilities of what we could dive in to this project. Intuitively, I know Muddy Sneakers is making a big impact, but the challenge will be to work with Muddy Sneakers staff, teachers, and students to figure out what the most important impacts are and how to measure them. Some that come to mind:
- Building observation skills
- Connection to nature
- Pro-envionmental attitudes
- Interest in science
- Confidence in science
What others can you think of??