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Let's go outdoors: promoting developmentally responsive curriculum at outdoor camp. (Vice President's Vista).

As ACEI members and education community leaders who promote a holistic child-centered approach to education, Intermediate / Middle Childhood Committee members enjoy sharing vignettes that highlight opportunities for our youngsters ages 9-15. Jean Smith and Karen Rhode, speakers at the I / MCC Luncheon for the 2002 ACEI Conference in San Diego, greet each teaching experience as a new beginning and are more than willing to share their innovative ideas with us. The September outdoor camp at their school is one example of the many ways in which dedicated teachers, supportive parents, and energetic students can work together to ensure that all students will learn well, and enjoy the process.

For 15 years, teams of 5th-grade teachers from District Topton Elementary School in the Brandywine Heights Area School District, Topton, Pennsylvania, have worked collaboratively with educators at the South Mountain YMCA to develop enriched camping experiences. This year, students and teachers attended a three-day, overnight Outdoor Environmental Educational Camp at the YMCA Camp Conrad Weiser in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. The educators designed a program that introduced students to environmental sciences as well as important life skills, such as teamwork and group problem solving.

In keeping with the philosophy and thoughtful management of a responsive classroom, the goals of this year's camp program included fostering respect and responsibility for the natural environment, as well as respect and responsibility for self and others. In the Brandywine Heights Area School District, the 5th-grade year is the time when students from many elementary schools join each other and their older peers in a very large school. It is especially important to give these students time and opportunities to meet and work with each other. Outdoor camp is just such an opportunity.

Spread over three days, camp sessions included orienteering, tree identification, wilderness survival, low ropes courses, and Braille trail activities. The sometimes humorous "unnature trail" taught students to recognize items that do not belong in the natural environment. A simulated archeological dig was a real hit with the students, while lectures about wild animals and their pelts, provided by officials of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, prompted students to consider common animals from different perspectives.

In addition to evenings filled with hayrides, games, and camp stories and songs, students and their teachers listened to historically rich stories about Pennsylvania stations on the Underground Railroad. Simulations gave children a chance to relate more personally to the plight of slaves in the 1800s and gain insight about the important people who worked for freedom.

Stories from outdoor camping with the 5th grade enrich classroom activities for years to come, and we can only guess about the lifelong learning that these three days at outdoor camp stimulate. Students and their families, teachers, auxiliary educators, and administrators form strong, lifelong bonds at outdoor camp. This program is just one more example of the many ways that ACEI members throughout the world continue to work closely with students and their families to provide opportunities for all students to learn well, regardless of their individual strengths and needs, economic situations, or cultural backgrounds.

In keeping with our committee goals, the Intermediate/ Middle Childhood Committee is working to increase our membership. We hope that each member will invite at least one additional person to join ACEI and become a strong advocate for children ages 9 to 15. We appreciate any questions or insights you may have about our work, and we also would enjoy hearing stories from your communities. Please write us (see the Yearbook published in the Fall 2002 issue of Childhood Education) or communicate with other members of the committee by joining the I/MCC listserv: aceimiddle @kutztown.edu.
Cordially,
Jeanie Burnett,
burnett@kutztown.edu
Vice President Representing
Intermediate/Middle
Childhood
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Author:Burnett, Jeanie
Publication:Childhood Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2003
Words:618
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