Burr Ridge school moves classroom outdoors
Sixth-graders from Gower Middle School in Burr Ridge took their lessons outside during the annual Outdoor Education trip to White Pines Ranch in Oregon, IL. | Photo courtesy of Gower science teacher Greg Hey.
Updated: November 11, 2012 10:17AM
BURR RIDGE — Forget the pencils and notebooks.
Hiking boots and warm-weather gear were the required tools for Gower Middle School sixth-graders as they set out on their annual Outdoor Education trip this month.
Seventy of the school’s 81 sixth-graders took part in this year’s trip to White Pines Ranch in Oregon, Ill.
Sixth-grade science teacher Greg Hey has been part of the program since it began 14 years ago. The trip is only three days long, but Hey said it provides a foundation of knowledge for the entire year, and beyond.
“There are countless times throughout my science curriculum that I will reference things that we’ve done at White Pine,” he said.
Whether it’s the visit to a canyon carved by a glacier or the hunt for fossils formed 4 million years ago, students return from the trip with experiences they can apply to their lessons.
“They have a wealth of knowledge now to pull from,” Hey said.
Science isn’t the only subject addressed at Outdoor Ed.
A tour of a cemetery provides lessons in history, and journal-writing exercises put to use the students’ language arts skills. Math skills are needed to navigate the woods using a compass.
Of course, horseback riding and hiking provide at least as much exercise as a traditional gym class, and wilderness survival teaches techniques they can use indoors and out.
“They learn how to stay calm and problem solve,” Hey said.
Seventh-grader Christian Schulte remembers a lot about his Outdoor Education experience a year ago, including the basics of building an emergency shelter.
“You need a good roof,” said Christian, who learned to build a small but sturdy shelter from sticks and evergreen branches.
“You want good shelter,” he said.
He also learned about nature, about owls and about fossils. But most of all, Christian said, he had a good time with his friends and made some good middle-school memories.
“I knew it would be fun,” said Christian, who encourages his younger friends to make the trip.
Hey said students typically are having so much fun at Outdoor Education, they don’t even realize that they also are learning.