The final bell has rung and children at public and private schools across the nation have cleaned out their lockers and headed out the doors and hopefully, outdoors.
Some of these children are departing schools that rarely allow their students to get down and dirty in the outside world — such as Polaris Charter Academy on Chicago’s West Side, where the school’s 450 students had been kept indoors due to fears associated with gun violence. In other parts of the country, fewer students get the opportunity to truly explore the world outside the playground or even lie down in the grass and point out the significance of cloud formations above.
These same schools, for a variety of reasons, don’t take the time to schedule impromptu short excursions to neighboring parks and wilderness areas, teaching students the names of native birds, plants and trees, pointing out urban and suburban wildlife, or following a slow-moving creek to a larger, more rapid tributary.
But just because most schools don’t fill that obligation doesn’t mean families can’t take over the job now that summer has arrived. The objective is to send these kids back to school in the fall — freshly cleaned up and rested — with heads full of new connections to the natural world.
So how do our children and students truly benefit from outdoor and adventure education? Here’s a short list of the positive attributes of wilderness exploration: