RICHLAND COUNTY, Ohio — Outdoor education offers a unique alternative for students, allowing them to learn beyond the walls of a traditional classroom through real-life experiences.
And the good news is, they enjoy it.
According to Mohican School in the Out-of-Doors, Inc. staff, students are receptive to outdoor education and often provide positive feedback about their experiences at Mohican Outdoor School.
Located in the rural part of Richland County, Mohican Outdoor School helps enrich elementary and middle school curriculum through hands-on, experience-centered teaching. The school operates from September through May, offering day trip and resident programs.
Some of the many subjects the students learn about include aquatic studies, ecology, ornithology, entomology, dendrology, geology and history.
Sixth grade students from St. Peter’s Elementary School recently took a trip to Mohican Outdoor School from Oct. 26-30. “It’s kind of like a rite of passage for sixth grade,” St. Peter’s Elementary School teacher Tara Arnold said.
Arnold had nothing but good things to say about outdoor school.
“One of the wonderful things about Mohican Outdoor School is first, it’s real-life experience,” she said, noting that it gives them the chance to actually see and touch the materials they’re learning about.
Students get to experience lessons that are typically taught in the classroom in a new setting, catering to different learning styles that may need visuals to understand the material, she said.
“Many of the students that may struggle with textbooks and that type of learning really excel in this type of environment,” she said. “You can really see their strengths come out.”
Students have so much fun they may not even realize they’re learning.
But Arnold noted, “They’re still learning. It’s still the same standards. It’s just in a different light.”
Siera Marth, assistant park manager at Malabar Farm State Park, has also noticed a positive reaction from students when they visit Malabar Farm.
She said the hands-on activities give the students a chance to “expel some energy,” adding, “They have a really good time.”
Students can explore nature, pet and learn about the farm animals, take a tour of the Bromfield house, go on a wagon tour while learning all about the history of the area and about the current farming operations used at Malabar Farm, or even see how maple syrup is produced.
“We offer a nature walk that takes [students] up to an area that has some pretty neat rock formations,” Marth said. “There’s a rock formation that forms what looks like a cave that they can walk all the way through, so that’s a really neat thing for them to be able to do because they can start at one end and go to the other end.”
Marth said that when students visit with the animals, “We typically have a naturalist or a volunteer who’s familiar with animals there to talk about the some of the different animals we have, why we have them and what kind of role they play on our farm here.”
Malabar Farm serves student groups from Richland and surrounding counties, as well as those from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Marth said.
“We estimate that for 80 percent of the students that come here, this may be the only hands-on experience with agriculture that they have all year, so we try to emphasize the agriculture piece quite a bit,” she said.