As an alternative to online classes, teachers have been taking creative measures to reinvigorate students’ interest in their education through hands-on education. Several schools across the nation have tried schooling in the wilderness, and there has been a great success amongst the students attending these classes.
In Oregon, students have spent their day in public parks where they may learn biology in the meadows or complete hands-on projects such as building shelters or bridges. Not only do students get to learn in a safe environment where social distancing is possible, but they are also engaged in an immersive educational environment that encourages their curiosity and helps them learn based on experience.
Schools in California have also noted that student engagement has increased when they are involved in outdoor education. For students who have a lot of pent-up energy, they can channel their creativity in the outdoors and move around. Their exposure to nature also improves their mental health and academic performance. Students start looking forward to school, putting these classes in high demand.
Classes in Brooklyn have experienced similar levels of success through a wilderness survival–themed course. High schoolers who had been on the verge of dropping out due to lack of motivation were pleasantly surprised to enjoy their schooling with this alternative curriculum. Students would engage in practical, hands-on projects to learn how to pitch tents, build fire, and make water filters. Because they are encouraged to interact with each other, they also found themselves connecting with their teachers and classmates.
From these classes, it appears that students benefit enormously when they are in an open environment that not only ignites their interest in school through interesting projects but encourages community and relationship building with their peers. It can be useful for teachers to think about how they can continue to build on this momentum and create experience-based educational experiences to engage their students.