At a time when today’s kids spend less and less time outdoors (becoming known as “Nature Deficit Disorder”) and more and more research continues to confirm the serious consequences this lack of exposure has, Riveredge envisions:
- A school system where the outdoors is integrated into everyday activities just as technology is interwoven through all subject areas.
- Schools that do not have to make the choice between less recess time and more reading time because teachers have learned ways of transforming their local outdoor spaces into classrooms.
- Students healthier, happier, more creative, and inspired by the world around them.
This isn’t just a vision. This is the goal of the Scientist in Residence program, a cutting-edge new project Riveredge is piloting in partnership with the West Bend School District. By placing a fully-funded environmental educator directly into schools for five years, the Scientist in Residence will be able to work directly with school staff to inspire, inform, and reduce barriers to their use of the outdoors as a teaching tool. The program amounts to a true partnership with local school districts to transform the culture of our formal education system through the integration of outdoor learning experiences, environmental science learning, and the implementation of sustainability projects and initiatives.
Want to know more about what a day in the life of a Scientist in Residence looks like? We’ve got you covered!
Making the program responsive to the needs of the schools we partner with is a key component of the project. In that regard, Megan Johnson has been a perfect fit for the West Bend School District’s Scientist in Residence pilot program, focusing her attention on expanding science learning through outdoor learning and classroom space. In her first year, Megan has seen great results.
“The reaction from students and teachers has been amazing. There are many teachers who are enthusiastic to get their kids outside and out of the classroom. The kids are engaged and excited to do something out of the norm. For some of them having the chance to explore freely outside is not regular and it offers a unique experience.”
Megan has taught over 500 sixth graders a lesson on prairies, held a special insect field day for second graders, and had all K-6 teachers in the District on a hike in their district’s outdoor classroom to generate and brainstorm ideas for the teachers’ utilization of the space.
Riveredge is committed to making its programs as effective as possible, both to do maximum good in our own communities, but also to serve as models for other organizations looking to make change in their own communities. That’s why we partnered with the UW-Milwaukee School of Urban Initiatives and Research to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the WBSD Scientist in Residence pilot year. Their findings are extremely promising- you can check out some of these results in the quick video above!
In the news
The excitement behind this unique project is catching on! We’ve had some great coverage about the program and its impacts. Check it out!
“A second-grader picking up a rock outside during school hours could be a cause for panic, but at Fair Park Elementary School here, Megan Johnson calmly watches as her lesson plan plays out just as she had hoped.”
“Our vision is to create a culture in the school district where students are learning outside on a regular basis. Really the main goal is just to get kids outside and learning.”