Last week, I had the privilege of being a chaperone for my daughter's sixth grade class as they went to "Outdoor School." I wasn't familiar with this concept until we moved to Oregon but, apparently, it's pretty common up here. Basically, the whole class goes to an outdoor location (some classes go to the coast, my daughter's went up to a Kiwanis camp on Mount Hood).
For several days, we worked with the kids on a variety of physical, mental, and team-building activities, and it was extremely effective. We went to a couple of mountain lakes to do water studies, went on night hikes to observe the stars and constellations, went on nature hikes to study things like microenvironments, and went on an 11.5 mile hike to a peak where we could see 5 nearby mountains all at once.
For each activity, the students were asked to answer a number of questions in their science journals to enforce what they's learned. There was also plenty of time to reflect, enjoy nature, and get to know each other in a new environment.
One of the things that really struck me was how well some of the students did in this environment. In many cases, students who are usually disinterested or "just OK" in the classroom dove into the activities with tremendous focus and passion. Just being in a different context -- along with combining learning, physical activities, and a more social, team-oriented approach -- really unlocked their curiosity.
If you ever feel uninspired when it comes to learning, maybe you can unlock your own curiosity or create a new spark by changing how you approach it. Find a way to get outside, make it more hands-on, or get involved in a supportive group environment to make it more fun and change the context of learning.
For example, it's one thing to read about the life cycle of fish but one of the "big moments" we experienced was standing on the banks of the Salmon River watching a couple of salmon spawning. Way cool - you can get a glimpse of it in the short video I captured of salmon spawning.
This was at the Cascade Streamwatch project in Wildwood, Oregon. If you're ever out this way, it's a wonderful place to do some outdoor learning!