Camp is animal presentations, archery, fishing, team building exercises and more.
Since the 1980s the Fort Zumwalt School District has encouraged the discovery of nature through its Outdoor Education Program. Each fall fifth-graders from across the district have the opportunity to spend five days and four nights in the ultimate outdoor classroom … Cuivre River State Park.
The Outdoor Ed curriculum was recently reviewed by curriculum coordinator Greg Soloman and five of his building camp coordinators. It is a five-day, four-night adventure that introduces students to traditional outdoor activities such as hiking, archery and fishing as well as newer explorations such as geo-caching.
Last year, thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Safari Club International, the equipment and instruction for the archery unit was upgraded. Kyle Salvo, camp coordinator for Twin Chimneys Elementary, won the grant for National Youth Archery, and is hoping to secure similar funding for the next two years.
“The grant money received was important to the program because is provided training for our staff and equipment that allowed the students to have a safer atmosphere and more shooting opportunities,” Salvo says. “This is an activity that could be a lifelong activity they could participate in long after their fifth-grade experience is over.”
Without realizing it, students allow the world to become their classroom and textbooks to come to life as they investigate the pond and explore the stages of life there or interact with birds of prey and reptiles during special presentations.
“Outdoor Ed promotes critical thinking and collaboration. It encourages students to explore their environment and learn about natural resources all while they are having a VERY good time,” says Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Jackie Floyd. Campfire sing-a-longs and s’mores don’t feel like a regular day at school, but they are par-for-the-course at camp.
Pulling all areas of a student’s school day into the outdoors requires a wide range of district staff. Principals, teachers, cooks, custodians, maintenance personnel and transportation pull together to make the annual tradition a four-week reality. In 2013, the Outdoor Ed staff boasted 14 Zumwalt retirees who came back as part-timers just to be at camp.
On average, 90 percent of our fifth-graders participate each year in the Outdoor Education Program, which is an extra fee for families. The high participation rate is testimony to the value FZ parents and staff find in the program.
“So many kids have tablets and readers and phones at home,” says Board of Education Member Scott Grasser. “For a lot of kids, this is their first real experience being in the outdoors for that long.”
Problem solving, team work, writing, art, music and science come together in the lessons at camp. Upon their return to the classroom, fifth-graders continue to pull from their week at camp throughout the school year, creating original essays and artwork and using what they learned about animals’ physiology as they study the human body and its systems.
“Despite all the technology in our kids’ lives, that’s really the world we live in,” Grasser says. “When the power goes out, that world outdoors goes on.”