School doesn’t have to mean being stuck inside all day doing lessons.
In southern Indiana, the Sycamore Land Trust is helping to bring exploration, curiosity and nature play into kids' school days. Shane Gibson, its director of environmental education, comes to schools free of charge to lead hikes, hands-on demonstrations and multi-disciplinary lessons for about 3,000 participants each year.
For example, in some classes they read the book In the Woods: Who’s Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett George. Then they head out to ask that question for themselves. One day a group of kids saw a hole in a tree oozing sap that looked like honey — so they suggested that it was probably made by a honeybee. "What else could have caused that hole?" Gibson asked. They thought about it and came up with another idea: woodpecker!
The lessons inspire teachers to bring more nature and science into the classroom on a regular basis. And they inspire kids to investigate nature spontaneously when they're playing outdoors. One elementary school teacher, Kathy Boone, says, "If these programs were happening in all of our schools, I think you would see a lot of change. It is really powerful."
Rose Jenkins is a frequent contributor to Saving Land, the Alliance's quarterly magazine.