Saturday, August 8, 2015

A New Trail

Outdoor educational opportunities are always at the forefront of how I teach. Though fascinated with nature and exploration, my real desire to teach children outdoors took off when I began the Tyke Hike program. Now, in my decade as an educator, I've consistently taken kids outside for lessons and activities, but nature had never been the center of what I was doing.

That changes now.

I am very happy to announce that I have been working very hard this summer and it is paying off. Along with my district, I am transforming  a beautiful (but ignored) parcel of land behind my school into a vibrant and interactive outdoor learning environment. Ultimately, I am working towards gaining my district an outdoor learning accreditation. Initially, I am introducing a forest school concept in my school. Essentially, one day a week, our classroom will not learn about nature, we'll learn from it. We won't visit the outdoors, we will be the outdoors. 

To get the forest school concept started, my first order of business is creating a trail. Having some experience as a hike leader, I feel very comfortable on the trail. However, designing and building a trail is far different than leading a hike in the trail.

Luckily, I must have pretty decent "trail eyes" as I had a plan in mind when I shared that plan with others much wiser than I in the area of trail creation, Fortunately, they LOVED my trail ideas and were impressed with the land. 

That was all I needed (besides approval from my district administration) to get started. With less than a month before another school year starts, there's plenty to do. After walking out my proposed route, clearing some fallen branches that would've destroyed my mower, and clearing brush from my designated entrance and exit points, it was time to make a trail.  While I still have some clearing out near my proposed meeting areas and the creation of some spur trails, the initial quarter-mile trail is completed.

I love walking it already. I can only hope that my students and other members of my school community will enjoy it. There is so much promise in this opportunity. I cannot wait to really dig deep (figuratively and literally) into this land and help create a nature-rich classroom for children now and in the future.

Check out some pictures below. . .
Entrance/exit near baseball diamond

The trail is a bit  hard to follow with only having being mowed once, but Embry figured it out.

One of many deer beds along the trail

A little overgrown, but one of the oak trees to be used for group area

A view from the trail. The school is visible from all points

One of my favorite spots so far. This beautiful oak is prime real estate for a class meeting area

Lots of nature to explore

Very interesting collection of branches 

I designed the trail to bisect these two pairs of trees

What a view!

Entrance/exit from just south of library

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