By Jessica Hewitt, Director Foothill Horizons, Stanislaus County Office of Education
Foothill Horizons Outdoor School, a tradition for over 60 years, is launching “Outdoor Ed at Any Distance” this next school year. Due to current COVID-19 restrictions, Foothill Horizons is not planning on overnight outdoor education during the 2020-2021 school year. However, because outdoor education is such an important part of 6th-grade education in Stanislaus County, we are committed to bringing Foothill Horizons to 6th graders next year wherever they are.
Now more than ever, students need to connect to one another, connect to nature, and grow their science knowledge. During the potential economic recession and current social isolation, children need to learn how to find nature wherever they are and benefit from the impact of that natural connection. Spending time in nature, even if it is just looking out the window, looking up at the clouds, or taking a minute to listen to a bird, decreases stress, increases cognitive functions, and increases joy. This real-life social, emotional management skill is so valuable for our children’s health and can be taught by Foothill Horizons Naturalist staff at any distance.
The Naturalist staff has over 150 years of collective experience inspiring students to connect to nature, to one another and to science. This spring, Foothill Horizons proved that they could effectively teach and inspire from a distance. If you have any lingering doubts, go to Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to see how we provide a virtual outdoor school.
Outdoor Education is a tradition because the Stanislaus County community, its families, teachers, schools, and districts know its value. In a recent policy briefing, Lawrence Hall of Science summarized the importance of outdoor education and the potential loss of these programs across the state and country due to COVID-19 and economic recession. Lawrence Hall of Science authors noted that, “Participation in informal environmental and outdoor science education programs results in positive cognitive/academic, dispositional, social-emotional, and health outcomes.” Families and schools have seen the benefits when children return from Foothill Horizons happy, exhausted, inspired, and empowered to learn more by exploring nature.
Foothill Horizons will provide a week of Outdoor Education at Any Distance 2020-21 for Stanislaus sixth graders that will include a variety of formats such as:
- Lessons via distance learning
- Lessons in schools (outdoors or in classrooms)
- Day trips near school
- Day trips to Foothill Horizons
Districts and schools are now in the process of registering for these varied and cost-effective options to serve their needs for the 2020-2021 school year. We are fully committed to bringing Foothill Horizons to students from any distance because they need and deserve it.