April 6, 2018
The benefits of outdoor learning have been in the news for the past few years. Studies have found that going outdoors to learn science connects students and teachers to the natural environment. It reaches these students in new and different ways and gives them real world examples of what they are learning about in their classrooms.
Given the aim of the iUTAH project to engage and build a water-wise citizenry, it seemed only fitting that the project partnered with the Natural History Museum of Utah’s Taking Learning Outdoors (TLO) program. Over the six years that the TLO program was active in Utah schools, it was able to equip 98 K-12 teachers with resources, information, and professional insight that has helped them bring their local watershed into their classrooms.
Supported by iUTAH and facilitated by NHMU, teachers in TLO cohorts participated in a year-long series of workshops led by science and education experts from around Utah. Teachers examined their local watershed and learned how to most effectively incorporate these natural science into their curriculum. These teachers then brought what they learned into their classrooms, helping the program to reach over 12,000 students. When asked about their experience, one teacher said, “I feel that my confidence has increased as a result of realizing that science is all about using observations to describe and define our natural environment. Observations cannot be wrong. They can become more specific, defined and refined over time but they aren’t wrong. This helped me to be less afraid of science and love it more.”
A lasting legacy of the TLO program is the curriculum and insights available on NHMU’s website. Now, these lessons have been made available to encourage teachers to continue to take their classes outside by providing resources and lesson plans to help teachers feel more comfortable teaching outdoors. These lessons even include resources developed by Nancy Bo Flood, the author of Water Runs Through This Book, a book supported by iUTAH and given to many libraries, schools, and students throughout the state.
While the TLO program has ended its formal teaching program, banners now hang in 50 schools across the state that participated in the program. These banners encourage use of the lessons developed over the past five years. They also remind TLO teachers to share what they learned, helping their students to take an active interest in their watershed in a multi-disciplinary way.
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