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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Outdoor Education

Hiking through the woods this week I found myself humming  "Catalina Madalina Hoopa Stada Walk-a-dada Hoka Poka Loka was her name!"  and  "Boom Chicka Boom! Boom Chicka Boom! Boom Chicka Ra Ra Boom Boom Boom!"  
I had learned those songs about 40 years ago while in sixth grade at Camp Calumet during our  school's Environmental Education week.  Environmental Education Week  consisted of the entire sixth grade class (about 70 kids) leaving our classrooms and homes for 6 days, traveling over 200 miles away and learning our lessons at camp. 

My first exposure to hiking was climbing Red Hill and Jackman's Ridge during that week away from home.  Canoeing, orienteering and cooking outdoors were some of the other activities in which we participated.  We learned teamwork,  how to live with people other than family and took on new responsibilities (KP duty and such).

We still spent time doing English Language Arts, Math, Science, Art, Music and more, but we did it hands on through activities based outdoors.  I daresay, we grew up a bit that week. 

I got to thinking this week as I went on several walks in the woods "would I have ever gone hiking, kayaking, camping or spelunking if it weren't for my Environmental Education Week some 40 years ago?  I don't know....

What I do know is is important to take our lessons outside for kids.  We don't have to travel far to have them explore and learn from their environment.  We can learn from nature all around us. Exploring symmetry in math is easily done by looking at leaves; learning about the cardinal directions can be done easily using a compass on the playground; classifying rocks can be done after collecting specimens outside; or writing poetry or journal entries can be completed after spending time outdoors.   

Outdoor education ideas and lessons are limitless. During this Earth Day week why not try and find something outside your own door with your students or children!


  1. Nancy, I love this post! How wonderful it is to be outside and enjoy the lessons of nature! What we can learn about flight from the birds, life from the trees,plants, wildlife, and how to find our way around by the following the Sun. Never mind the feeling of fresh air! Are we loosing the lessons of the outdoors by staying in the comfort of heat/AC and relying on technology 24/7?
    ... This, I write as I sit at the computer, while the Sun is beaming and the temp is perfect! That does it! I'm going outside!

  2. I love it.
    I also incorporate outdoor activities in my counselling sessions with groups of kids and give seminars to groups on leadership, communication and conflict resolution. This is all great for kinesthetic learners (like myself) and most likely you - who have to be DOING instead of sitting around listening to someone.
    The majority of kids with 'behavioral problems' are also 'hands on ' learners.
    I applaud you and all who venture outside to expose children once again the importance of discovery learning YEAH!

    I also have a shirt you would love. On the front it says 'Ask your teacher to take you outside'.
    You can buy one at

  3. Your experience reminded me of jim's experience as a camp director for 11 years near here in starke. the kids would go and stay in cabins for two days with their teachers and explore and do all of the things she was 5th graders during the school year and during summer...all ages and abilities with 'regular' camp stuff...including square dancing and sailing on the lake..wish i could have been there, too.

  4. Hi Nancy,
    Good reminder! If it stops raining in Iowa, we will be out taking pictures of the budding trees, as we are studying plants in science.

    I have a different memory of one of the songs you sang in sixth grade.

    Catalina Macalena
    Oopsadona Juanapona
    Hokie Pokie Dokie was her name.

    I have no idea if that is really what it was supposed to be, but those are the words I sang! It's funny how powerful our memories are when they are attached to music, isn't it? My students just learned the Preamble to the Constitution, with the classic School House Rock song. My experience has been they remember it until they are seniors (and beyond, I'm sure)! I guess I just better keep teaching them the correct words.

    Thanks for posting,


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