SHERIDAN — Sheridan County School District 2 students are receiving educational opportunities that extend beyond the four walls of a classroom.
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Assessment Mitch Craft led a board of trustees meeting Monday that highlighted three current programs the district offers its students.
While other outdoor learning initiatives exist in the district, Craft discussed the Learn Outside science program, the Antelope Butte ski program and the Sheridan High School outdoor club.
The Learn Outside program, designed for fifth-grade students, is not your typical “school to camp” field trip model. Instead, the program orients around state standards and involves related classroom work both before and after the students’ time in the field.
“Our teachers are very purposeful in designing standards-referenced lessons and activities that build up before they ever get to camp and then follow-up activities for after they get back. It is very organized and systematic around learning targets,” Craft said.
All fifth-graders in the district spend two days in September at Camp Roberts, which is owned by the YMCA. For each lesson, pre-activities are done in the classroom, such as reading or writing to generate background knowledge. The field learning and hands-on activities occur at Camp Roberts. Then, once back in the classroom, students complete follow-up activities such as graphing data or giving presentations.
“Learning does not have to stop at the classroom doors as long as our teachers are purposeful about the activities that they create,” Craft said.
Craft also discussed a week-long ski unit in which Antelope Butte visits each elementary school. Antelope Butte grooms trails on the school’s campus and provides all equipment for a cross-country ski setup. Students are first taught fundamental movements of skiing in the gym; then they transition outside to test their technique. The week culminates in a field trip to Antelope Butte where students can experience both Nordic trails and alpine runs.
This partnership with Antelope Butte allows all students to have the chance to ski. Trustees commented on the program’s value, considering some students may not encounter an opportunity to learn to ski otherwise.
Outdoor learning chances exist at the high school, too, as Craft explained the SHS Outdoor Club. Part of the club’s work aims to “provide healthy and safe outdoor recreational opportunities,” according to its mission statement. Some of the club’s activities include rock climbing, mountain biking, alpine skiing and cross-country skiing. Although this is a newer club, 45 students participated in the first year alone. Club members also engage in service projects, such as environmental clean up efforts.
Craft is excited for the district to “grow these programs in a healthy and productive way while keeping the focus on learning.”
Those in attendance all agreed how important outdoor opportunities are for the district considering the number of students who have never been to the mountains or spent a meaningful amount of time outdoors before.
Assistant Superintendent Scott Stults also holds a favorable view on the outdoor programs, as they provide relativity and excitement for what students are learning. “It enhances passion and purpose for our students. These are lifelong activities that can be available for them from their current place in life through retirement,” Stults said.
“It’s a positive thing that makes learning real,” Craft said.