Finland, May 5, 2020, — Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, a nonprofit organization in northern Minnesota, now provides free online lessons which help students meet MN Academic Standards while participating in hands-on activities while staying in their own back yards and neighborhoods.
“When teachers who normally bring students to Wolf Ridge were forced to cancel their spring field trips, we asked how we could help them meet their learning goals in the coming months. They let us know that they wanted to be sure their students would learn outside, in the ‘real’ world, rather than be stuck on a screen all day. And they wanted kids to feel truly excited about learning as they headed out the door,” said Shannon Walz, Associate Director at the Center. “We’re an accredited school, and our goal was to make something with the educational depth teachers expect from us. Many organizations have created educational videos, but as far as we know, ours is the only nature-focused, MN Standards-based curriculum, that comes complete with activities, stories (video or printed) and a built in method for students to share what they are learning with teachers.”
Each new “Adventure in Learning” starts with an adventure with two of the Center’s naturalists, then sends children outside to for hands-on learning activities such as building and testing their own solar oven, creating an ephemeral art piece modeled on the Earthworks movement, collecting data, or running experiments. Nature journaling is part of every lesson, with drawing and writing prompts that encourage participants to observe and reflect upon the natural world. For those accessing the learning materials online, the lesson begins on the Wolf Ridge website by clicking on a StoryMap, an easy to use educational guide containing images, videos, questions, and activities. Students with limited or no internet access can receive printed versions of the materials from their school teachers.
“Our naturalists have had lots of fun creating the 10 minute “Adventure in Learning” videos. We know students learn best when they are excited about what they are learning, and Caroline and Robby’s enthusiasm are hard to resist as they hike and explore the Center’s 2,000-acre campus and beyond,” said Walz.
Families are enjoying doing the activities outside together, too. One parent who used the Earthworks Adventure in Learning shared “What I expected to be 30 minutes of fresh air for Ben turned into a whole afternoon family project! Fun, educational and gave us a keener appreciation for nature in our own backyard.”
It isn’t just the academic learning that’s making a difference to participating students. Spending time outdoors connecting with nature can be incredibly helpful during stressful times. Time in nature can benefit us all by:
- Helping us leave behind the stress of processing the news media.
- Increasing physical activity to promote personal health and build strong bodies.
- Providing us space and time to notice the sights, smells, and sounds of the present moment, which has a calming and restorative effect on our mental health.
- Getting you and yours out of the house, experiencing and seeing new things!
An accredited school with a 49-year history, Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center has accompanied over a half-million students and families outdoors, using each individual’s natural curiosity as a jumping-off point to growing new understanding. While academic learning prepares our future citizens for a lifetime of critical thinking and problem-solving, it is the feeling of connection that happens in nature that can sustain us through difficult times such as those we are in today. Their free Wolf Ridge Adventures in Learning can be found at www.wolf-ridge.org.