The backbone of environmental or outdoor education is multidisciplinary teaching. This philosophy of teaching plucks core subject areas from their exile of solitude and reveals the connections between them. For example science and art were once vested lovers. No one would bat an eye as they held hands through academic hallways. Some of our earliest and most influential biologists were artists. Were they first artists or biologists…I think it’s a chicken or the egg kinda thing. Now though, students are lucky to get one class a week of art and many don’t even begin science until THIRD GRADE!
Real learning happens when connections between the core subject areas are made. Connections and interdependence are tried and true as in nature, business, culture, society, even economics. Everything is and always will be connected. Sterilizing learning and putting it into a box does not make it safe or better. It takes away its familiarity, the emotional response, the life. Learning then becomes something only found in books or the internet, something prepackaged and plugged in but not applied. (Also just as a side note, LEARNING BECOMES BORING!) Our society is smarter than it’s ever been, but we have no direct experience to apply all this knowledge. The connections to a real world experience are not played out for us in conventional education.
Nature is the one thing we all have in common, the one thing that surpasses all cultural, societal, economic and political boundaries (or should anyway). By using what is right out your back door, connections are created. Below is a quick example that can easily be modified for younger students.
A simple school-yard bird count could possibly cover…
Science: Identifying local song birds, determining invasive/non-invasive species, identifying what class of birds and what physical adaptations classify them as such
Math: Building bird feeders
Statistics: Collecting data and running analysis, graphing
Technology: Learning to use excel
Writing: Research paper-civics, local geography and history would all be covered
Speech: Speaking in front of an audience
Physical Education: Student would be outside collecting data
Art: Drawings of birds or habitats
Literature: What have local authors wrote about birds (which is also a history lesson)
Here is a photo of my kids out ‘playing’. In the comments, make a list of the subject areas that could be covered and how. The comment with the best answer wins a PRIZE!
See You Out There!