Anchorage Outdoor School in Spring
Anchorage Outdoor School (AOS) was in full swing this spring, with over 350 students from Eagle River to Girdwood spending two full school days outside engaged in outdoor learning activities. Outdoor School’s mission is to cultivate lifelong stewardship of Alaska’s public lands through hands-on, experiential learning. Though our residential program has been on hold since the beginning of the pandemic, the novel day program format that emerged in its place has proven to be a wonderful alternative that exposes students and teachers to their nearby outdoor spaces. Each school that participated in Outdoor School this spring did so at a local park or area within one mile of the school, with most students walking both to and from their Outdoor School location.
Pre-Visits Prepare Students for Their Outdoor Experience
Before Outdoor School, students are visited by AOS staff and partners to introduce the students to Outdoor School and do a few activities to get students prepared and excited for their upcoming experience. This spring, we partnered with UAA staff and students to provide Outdoor School as a practicum experience. Students in the Outdoor Leadership & Facilitation class attended the pre-visits to students and did welcome activities with them on their first day of Outdoor School. The UAA students were a huge hit with the 5th graders, and it was awesome to see students from multiple levels of the education system come together in an outdoor learning space.
Fun Field Studies Are the Core of AOS
When students arrive at Outdoor School, they are greeted by familiar faces from the pre-visits as well as the field instructors for the week and a loud and enthusiastic rendition of the AOS Welcome Song. After reviewing the schedule and AOS expectations, students get warmed up for the day with activities led by the UAA students, then receive their wood cookie name tags and embark on the first field study of the day. Students complete four field studies over their two-day experience and these blocks provide a variety of opportunities to investigate fundamental science concepts, develop self-awareness and social skills, practice outdoor skills and activities, develop and extend their key skills of communication, problem solving, risk propensity, leadership, and teamwork, and have positive and meaningful outdoor experiences. AOS field studies wouldn’t be possible without our amazing team of field instructors, made up of educators and outdoor enthusiasts who generously donate their time to participate in Outdoor School. Field studies this spring included:
- Intro to Geocaching, provided by GeocacheAlaska!
- Exploring Your Environment, provided by USFWS and USFS educators
- Sense of Place, provided by Anchorage Museum education staff
- Animal Life Cycles & Food Webs, provided by NPS staff from the Anchorage Alaska Public Lands Information Center (AAPLIC)
- Abiotic vs Biotic, provided by Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center staff
This unique combination of physical education and science standards-aligned learning is a trademark of Outdoor School and we are very proud of and grateful to our field instructor team for providing such a smorgasbord of activities for the students to enjoy!
The Best Two Days of School!
Outdoor School is wrapped up in a post-visit to students at their school the following week to do a few reflective activities and a short assessment survey. After a few very fun days together, it is always difficult to say goodbye for the last time. I could go on and on about the positive impacts of outdoor learning, but I think the student feedback says it best:
“Thank you this program and field trip really made me happy and made me think about my choices.”
“Thank you guys so much and I loved outdoor school I hope again I can come.”
“The outdoor school is a wonderful place and it made me feel more connected and I hope my little brother can feel the same.”
“This experience was wonderful, I hope other grades would be able to experience this adventure.”
“This place made me feel more confident.”
“This has been the best two days of school ever!”
KMTA is proud to provide Outdoor School and we look forward to another excellent year of outdoor learning in the 2022/23 school year. Stay tuned for updates on new programs and please reach out if you or your organization is interested in being involved in Outdoor School. Have a great summer and see you outside!