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West Liberty-Salem Sixth Graders Study Science in Outdoor Classroom
West Liberty-Salem Sixth Graders Study Science in Outdoor Classroom
Allison Wygal
Friday, September 13, 2019

Students in Mrs. Symmat’s sixth grade Science class took things outside this week and enjoyed what may be the last warm days of summer!  They studied in what is considered and ‘outdoor classroom’, otherwise known as the West Liberty-Salem Land Lab.  Outside learning has become a popular concept among teachers as studies continue to show its benefits on student behavior and engagement.  Outside classrooms encourage an active lifestyle, create an appreciation for nature and the environment, encourage independent thinking and work ethic, increase student independence and improve behavior while learning to study in a variety of environments.  

Mrs. Symmat studied the outdoor classroom concept in a class designed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Department of Education. She then designed a program for her students that allow them to work in the field as well as the classroom through an iPad program called iNaturalist.  This app, a joint collaboration by California Academy of Science and the National Geographic Society, allows young scientists to upload their observations to people from across the world using the same program!  Over 750,000 Scientists and Naturalists are online to help students learn more about plants, animals and non-living things.  This pooled research concept also assists trained scientists in creating new and improved research data.  

Our students collected a variety of living and non-living samples to observe, identify and classify.  Rocks, water, Toads, samples of plants, and dirt were brought back to the inside classroom for iNaturalist studies.  They were able to specify what each item is and classify them as living or non-living things.  What is really neat about this program is it allows students to be part of something bigger than just regular class instruction.  While they are classifying their discoveries, they are also helping real scientists in another part of the country understand how and why things grow and thrive in our specific environment.  This project was a fun way to get back in the groove of classroom instruction, but most of all it taught them how they can impact the environment.