Muddy Boots, Outdoor Education

I’ve been working as a “field interpreter” for the George Mason University program that helps teach local middle school students about our watershed. I’m helping to provide students with “Meaningful Watershed Education Experiences” through field investigation days at area parks.

I have been looking for some hands-on outdoor education experience. As I’ve become involved with local efforts to boost outdoor ed opportunities locally (such as with the group NoVA Outside), someone referred me to the Mason program.

I got trained. I spent a day at a park learning four different outdoor ed sessions aligned with Fairfax County Public Schools curriculum, including water quality, macro invertebrates, land use and biodiversity. I was trained by the GMU police department on field safety (ticks are bad – got it). I joined a group of interpreters who have been and continue to be immersed in learning more about the environment, how to preserve it and how to get kids to care about it.

Perhaps I’m a bit of an outlier in the group, without a straight up background in science (I do have a minor in biology from way back when). But I’ve studied the teaching plan and the content, and I’m pretty good on my feet – directing kids to collect data, pay attention and enjoy the outdoors.

So far it’s been fun! Super tiring, but fun. One of the best parts has been seeing kids run around after their picnic lunch, just playing. Just being kids, free of building walls and test scores.

The kids on the whole have been really good. They are 7th graders, so of course some are more shy than others, some more engaged than others. But overall, it’s pretty cool to encourage them to be scientists, to make observations and conclusions, and enjoy nature.

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