The sounds of spring birds and frogs mingle with the shouts and laughter of students at Camp Pioneer. On this sunny Thursday afternoon, forty-seven rambunctious fifth graders from Randolph County, West Virginia, are preparing to depart after a two day educational adventure in the surrounding forests and streams. They just completed their experience in the Randolph County Outdoor Education Program (RCOEP).
“Mom, Mom, today we learned stuff and we had fun,” a student exclaims to her mother. She then proceeds to let loose a nonstop stream of excited explanation detailing each activity she and her classmates had participated in and what she had learned. This is how education should be.
The Randolph County Outdoor Education Program is a collaboration between Experience Learning and the Randolph County School System. In this program, all fifth graders in the county participate in beyond the classroom science and heritage focused lessons. Students in the RCOEP programs learn by doing. At the Izaak Walton League, students study chemistry, biology, and statistics through the sampling of a local stream, and by playing games that model population dynamics. At Camp Pioneer in Beverly, students dip their own candles and create watercolor landscape art. They then travel back in time to explore the rich history of the people of West Virginia and their beautiful, but rugged landscape.
At the end of the program, some students want to stay. We put them on the bus anyway, but I can’t help but think how wonderful it would be if all students could “learn stuff and [have] fun” every day. I am grateful to our awesome instructors from Experience Learning, the Randolph County School System, and Secure Rural Schools Act (the federal funding program) for making this outdoor education program possible for the students of Randolph County.