Nearby Nature is a place-based approach to implementing best practices of science education. In an era where schools are transforming their curricula to include a focus on problem solving and critical thinking skills, college and career readiness, and a deeper understanding of scientific concepts, the Nearby Nature project has one overarching goal: to help teachers learn how to use outdoor experiences as a means for effective science education.
Many schools and districts are faced with implementing new science standards that focus a deeper understanding of science content, science and engineering practices, cross-cutting concepts, the nature of science, and science literacy. The new standards therefore present an opportunity to engage teachers in professional development while also addressing best practices in pedagogy while using their schoolyards and facilities as a lens for learning.
Nearby Natures uses a place-based learning approach that takes students out in to the communities, to learn, to do, and to grow as human beings. It provides an affordable way to get students out of the classroom and into real-world environments. By using schoolyards and communities as the laboratory, students will be given the opportunity to learn subject matter in deep and lasting ways, understand the places they live in, and participate in community renewal that makes a difference to themselves and others.
- Centers curriculum in a specific locale that integrates content and creates focus.
- Invites some different ways of teaching and learning. Larger, more authentic questions are considered and teachers, students, and communities form partnerships that fuel and sustain the work.
- Makes learning more relevant and applicable. Learning about place fosters personal connections and understandings about one’s role in society that last a lifetime.
Through funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, this cohort of Nearby Nature is targeted to schools in RESA 1. It is part of a larger consortium of schools and partners including Carnegie Mellon’s CREATE Lab, Marshall University’s June Harless Center, West Liberty University, RESA 3, and PA Intermediate Unit 1. If your school or district is interested in becoming involved in Nearby Nature, please contact Vicki Fenwick-Judy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Folks are Saying
We are currently in the process of exploring a Trout in The Classroom project because of the interest that was piqued during the AWSM activities. – Julie Colaw, 5th grade science teacher, Petersburg Elementary School
Experience Learning and their staff make our school trips possible. From scouting things out before hand, to keeping everyone fed, safe, entertained and informed during the trip, none of it would be possible without their professionalism. They create a safe environment that allows students to push themselves out of their comfort zones and take risks while being fully supported. All of this translates to huge growth at home both in and out of the classroom. – Evan Schlissel, Winston Prep NY
Our trip to SKMC has now turned into an annual event that is not only highly anticipated, but essential to bringing together the social dynamics of our class as we prepare for a year of working together. Additionally, my students feel empowered and connected to each other from our adventures that carries on through our schoolwork. – Jen Osha Buysse, teacher, Morgantown Learning Academy
Mountain Stewards at Experience Learning is a fantastic week-long summer camp for kids who like the outdoors (or who WILL like the outdoors after this wonderful experience!) Stewardship of our natural resources, self-reliance, leadership, and fellowship, are all integral to this program. My daughter LOVES this camp, and that makes me a happy dad. Experience Learning also has great programs for learners of all ages. I recently completed an excellent Wilderness First Aid course at their wonderful Spruce Knob Mountain Center. Check it out! – Mark Wenzler
Hands down Experience Learning’s Water Sampling trip (AWSM) for my 5th graders this past year has been the highlight of my career thus far! – Megan Bacorn, teacher
Experience Learning has for a long time been dedicated to understanding our students, and on each trip builds a program to meet our goals. The experience we have each year creates a channel for learning that helps students further understand and internalize skills for planning, organization, problem solving and risk taking, and shows how these skills lead to success and happiness. We also have a wonderful time, and the experience is a staple of school culture and our collective memories. – Greg Koehlert, headmaster, Winston Prep
The leaders at Experience Learning do an extraordinary job of utilizing “outdoor education” to create opportunities for our boys to learn, grow, and develop an appreciation for our world beyond traditional classroom environments, which is valuable on too many levels to fully celebrate. – Mike Wallace, Gilman School