Learning in the Outdoors

Springfield Public Schools is committed to providing engaging, relevant and personal learning experiences for every student, every day. SPS has found that students’ passion for learning increases when they can explore real-world problems through hands-on experiences in engaging environments. This has been demonstrated through current programs like WOLF, Health Sciences Academy, GO CAPS and Academy of Exploration.

Now, thanks to a partnership between SPS and Ozarks Regional YMCA, fourth-grade students from eight elementary schools will broaden their horizons through a new learning experience this fall. During a six-week, project-based learning unit students at Bissett, Bowerman, Boyd, Watkins, Weaver, Westport, Williams and York elementary schools will visit YMCA’s Camp Wakonda where they will participate in lessons tailored to the experience.

These schools were strategically selected for this pilot initiative to improve equitable access to opportunities and support the City of Springfield’s Zone One Blitz, an initiative to improve quality of life in northwest Springfield.

“This outdoor experience pilot program responds to feedback from our community on the need to integrate the skills of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking along with foundational skills in reading and math to ensure students are prepared for the modern workforce,” shared Dr. John Jungmann, superintendent. “The experiences provided through these types of partnerships help us better meet the needs of our students especially when focused on areas of our community that can benefit from additional resources.”

A desire to replicate the learning successes achieved during Explore challenged the SPS Learning Team to scale those same types of opportunities to the regular school year, resulting in the development of an Outdoor Education Experience pilot. New curriculum and goals will connect to the relevant field experiences provided during four visits to Camp Wakonda beginning in September.

“YMCA has a long history of working in tandem with Springfield Public Schools to provide for the well-being of the youth in our community. This latest opportunity to expand the number of individuals who will learn life skills, develop friendships and grow in self-esteem and confidence in an outdoor setting at Camp Wakonda is just another example of what can be accomplished when we work together to better the lives of children,” said Kathryn Colglazier, COO.

At the end of the six-weeks, the pilot program will be evaluated for impact and scalability to additional schools.

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