Taking a Page from the Magic School Bus

Grass Valley, CA—In our line of work, traveling is a prerequisite; but it is not just beautiful vistas and outdoor marvels that reward the Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers.  Sometimes the wonderful experiences manifest themselves in a shared lunch with another traveler, an out-of-the-blue small town festival, or as in this case, playing a pertinent role in a budding educational philosophy: Expeditionary Learning.  

We, the Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers East Central Team, have never before spent time at a school that practices expeditionary learning, but this past week we were introduced to two of them:  Grass Valley Charter and Sierra Academy.  So what is Expeditionary Learning?  Throughout this blog we have provided a few links for you to investigate, but in short and straight from the horse’s mouth, expeditionary learning aims to:

1.     Engage students so that they become self-motivated learners.

2.     Inspire teachers and give them the tools they need to make a difference in their students’ achievement.

3.     And give hope to communities that have lost faith in the ability of their schools to prepare young people for success.

It is all about taking the lessons out of the classroom and into the fresh air; about engaging teambuilding activities; and about introducing as many ways as possible for the students to apply their lessons.  For example, in science class, the students might take a trip to the school’s garden to discuss decomposition, or to a local park to talk about the health of the water.  

Physics might send them to the on-campus rock-climbing wall, or off campus for naturalistic learning.  Creating these opportunities to develop new skills sets, while teaching the usual curriculum, gives these students an unbelievable opportunity and drive.   It makes for memorable lessons that give real world meaning to the math, science, and writing skills they are being taught in the classrooms. 

The success of these schools is partially due to the unique resources and requirements that challenge not only the students, but also the teachers to never stop learning,and to find new ways to create full circle education, education that can and will be applicable for the everyday lives of the students.  This success is also driven by a set of design principles that keep their vision and culture of the school focused and progressive.  They go beyond the curriculum to inspire new ideas and self-confidence, while incorporating service, adventure and conservation into each lessons.

This idea of a principle driven community is extremely similar to the Seven Leave No Trace Principles that we use to educate and accelerate our vision of education, stewardship, and behavioral change.  Intertwining this type of proactive and expeditionary education with the foundation of outdoor ethics taught through Leave No Trace, will create life-long stewards and protectors of one of our mutually loved resources: the outdoors.

It was a great experience working with elementary students and teachers from Grass Valley Charter School and the Sierra Academy.  We so look forward to the possibility of having a larger presence within these schools in the future.

Leave No Trace’s Katelyn and Blake are part of the 2016 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud Partners of this program include Subaru of America, Deuter, Eagle's Nest Outfitters, Smartwool, and REI.