Spotlight on getting ready for taking your students outdoors to learn!
Risk Management, strategies, and techniques for best practices in field science
by Lisa Wojcik, program director of the Environmental Science Center. Contact: email@example.com
Our school district is fortunate in its geography. Oceanic and estuary systems keep our climate temperate (and outdoor-science lesson worthy!) year-round. Within the perimeter of our city, planning agencies have dedicated land for ~70 parks, each boasting incredible biodiversity of native, rare and endangered species. Between these parks, many green corridors are emerging to connect these lands. Our location on the Pacific Tectonic Plate boundary provides for world-class earth and geological science lessons. Our city is literally overflowing with rich, authentic science lessons right outside your classroom door, or even a quick free MUNI ride down to our closest natural open space.
Not sure to do when you get there? The best introductory guide for educators’ field experiences in San Francisco is Finding Urban Nature, an Educators Guide to Exploring San Francisco Natural History. This publication is free, and often provides summer professional development workshops. The guidebook provides detailed prep tips to consider, bathroom locations, MUNI routes and ‘quick tips’ about each park. Important information about what to consider, how to pack and prepare are also included in this guide.
Not sure a trip is worth the extra effort? Increasing bodies of research cite that students’ time in natural settings improve enthusiasm about school, attendance, peer-to-peer relationships, and overall academic performance. A good introductory source for this research can be found here.
To start preparing for an outdoor excursion, we suggest focusing on the following:
- Plan early: If you are interested in a supported program look to register early as programs fill up. Partner programming offering educator support are available here: www.greenthenextgen.org
- Chaperones: Offsite programming is better with assistance. Work with a peer teacher or entire grade level to organize a school outing. You can also check-out SF School Volunteers if you need assistance finding a chaperone.
- Start your planning as early as possible, and begin to organize for your trip 1-month minimum before you leave.
- Organize groups, prepare name tags, prepare curriculum work and questions, and ensure risk management forms are in.
- Plan for student meals, or order free lunches for students. Outline dress policies for their trip date with guidelines for weather ( no heels, closed toed shoes, jackets, hats, etc.)
- Introduce students to the schedule for the day and set expectations.
- Go Early! Best weather for outdoor learning is September and October! By bringing students outside to learn this early, you will provide experiences and peer bonding that will last the entire year.
Finally, if you need assistance or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact the SFUSD Science Department team. Our end goal is scientific and ecological literacy for all SFUSD students, and we are committed to helping assist you with this meaningful work.