Growing “Mountain Kids” who Love, Understand, and Steward this Place
“We have a saying at our school--You’re a mountain kid,” says 2nd grade teacher, Aletha O’Kelley. “You’re a mountain kid if you’ve interacted with local plants and animals. You’ve seen them in the wild, you understand their ecology, and you’ve done projects to support them.”
Ms. O’Kelley and her colleagues at Chester Elementary School are using Learning Landscapes to pioneer Next Generation Science that’s rooted in mountain culture—Outdoor Core.
Across the curriculum, each grade learns ecology and stewardship through the eyes of a different organism: the garden, “creepy-crawlers” (invertebrates), reptiles and amphibians, mammals, trout, and birds, culminating in 6th grade with the Feather River Watershed “Plumas to the Pacific” experience. Next year, schools across the watershed will adapt Outdoor Core to their Learning Landscapes.
“Whether our kids stay or move away, they will understand things like, Where does our drinking water come from? What affects that resource?” says 4th grade teacher Nicholle Crowther. “My kids will never forget these experiences. Outdoor learning fosters critical thinking, creativity, fun, and a real-world context for learning.”
Learning Landscapes is the Feather River Land Trust's conservation and education program designed to greatly enhance children’s contact with the natural world, place-based learning, and hands-on stewardship experiences. Founded in 2000 by local residents, the Feather River Land Trust has conserved more than 47,000 acres of private lands that support outstanding biodiversity, waterways, working ranches, recreation, children’s outdoor learning, and spectacular scenery.