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November 17, 2021 Karen Lewis

Anchorage Outdoor School Finally Gets A Start!

We welcome you to Outdoor School

We’re mighty glad you’re here

We’ll send the air reverberating with a mighty cheer!

We’ll sing you in

We’ll sing you out

To you we raise a mighty shout


Hey hey the gang’s all here

Welcome to Outdoor School! (Woo!)

Anchorage Outdoor School (AOS) is BACK! After a long break, it was music to everyone’s ears to once again hear the Welcome Song being sung as Willowcrest students arrived in Pop Carr Park for two exciting days of outdoor learning.

The AOS mission is to foster lifelong stewardship of Alaska’s public lands through residential, place-based education. For this school year, we worked with school principals and teachers to create an adapted version of the program that best served students and mitigated the risks of covid-19. Our result was a two-day program with 57 Willowcrest Elementary 5th grade students held in the park next to their school. Students, teachers, and teachers aides spent two full school days outside singing songs, engaging in inquiry-based field studies, enjoying recreation time activities, and experiencing positive social and emotional growth along the way.

AOS has five core themes: stewardship, scientific practices, health & well-being, outdoor recreation, and connection to place. These themes are woven throughout the different program elements in thoughtful and creative ways. For example, students in the “Sense of Place” field study use sound to create a connection to their local park by identifying different natural and human-made sounds in the environment. They explore certain sounds further by discussing whether the sounds were made by living or non-things in nature. Deeper dives such as these lead to even more questions and connections! During “Who Lives Here?” students investigated an area of Pop Carr Park and searched for signs of animal and insect life, then completed a relay race matching different animals with their tracks.

During recreation time students had options like art using natural materials or a game of Salmon, Bear, Mosquito, where Alaskan animals, the food web, rock-paper-scissors, teamwork and tag all come together in a hilarious and highly active way. AOS presents students with the opportunity to have positive outdoor experiences depending on what they find most interesting and fun.

AOS would not be possible without our partner organization and we’d like to extend a huge and heartfelt thank you to:

  • ASD Health & PE Department
  • Anchorage Park Foundation
  • US Forest Service
  • Anchorage Museum
  • US Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Alaska Department of Fish & Game
  • University of Alaska Anchorage
  • Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
  • Alaska Botanical Garden

Many of these organizations have worked diligently on building this program’s strong foundations over the last two years and it was very fulfilling to see those efforts play out so successfully. To all who participated as field instructors and recreation time partners, thank you for your time, expertise, and enthusiasm.

With a successful fall program behind us, we are looking forward to more programming with 5th grade classes through the Anchorage School District and schools in the KMTA communities in the winter and spring months. Stay tuned for more great stories from Anchorage Outdoor School!

The Anchorage Outdoor School staff pose for a selfie!

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