“Putting the quest back in question and the search back in research.” This is a great quote used by the leadership staff at the Wilderness Awareness School. We use it here at Y-Camp as an approach to mentoring our students. We don’t want students to leave Y-Camp saying, “Wow, those naturalists know a lot about nature. Too bad I can’t take them with me next time I go outdoors.” We use inquiry to ask good questions, understand what the data is telling us and know that we don’t always get a tidy answer.
The State of Iowa is in the process of transitioning to the Iowa Core Curriculum. Teachers are expected to understand and transition to this new curriculum. We would argue that this curriculum isn’t new at all; it is how good naturalists teach their students. We don’t give them the answers, we use our programs as a way to model how we use observation, reading books and talking to experts as tools to gather information.
The Birds class is one example of how we use inquiry. Naturalists don’t simply point out the different calls or identify species; we use student observation and bird books to narrow down what the bird might be. We listen to the call to see if the bird is relaxed or alarmed. What might be upsetting this bird? Why is the bird there? What else is the bird telling us? The same technique is repeated in our other classes such as Stream Ecology, Discovery hike, Night hike and Iowa Geology.
From the Iowa Core website regarding science it states, “The Iowa Core was created after concern from business leaders, educators and scientists. In today’s increasingly technological world, students have access to information at the tip of their fingers. There is no longer the need to memorize formulas and vocabulary words.”
“Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking and investigating. We can no longer teach our students with lectures, readings, cookbook labs and plug and chug problem solving. Students must be designing, observing, questioning, exploring, making and testing hypothesis and defending conclusions. Strong connections between the lessons and the students’ daily lives must be made. ALL students must achieve at this level, not just those who have traditionally succeed in science class. ”
Y-Camp continues to provide high quality programs that match several of the Iowa Core benchmarks particularly in science. More importantly we give your students experiences that you the educator can later use to scaffold classroom content. Students do not do well trying to recall information at random. Often it is forgotten after a test. What we provide are experiences that you can help students recall information.
We have provided a curriculum map on this website that links Iowa Core standards to our classes. We also emphasize Foundational Skills of the Reading Standards for Grade 3-5 by using scientific terminology and guide students to their understanding. We don’t pretend to be experts in literacy but by tying experiences in nature related to the books your students read, we can make those books more relevant. Students often read Hatchet, My Side of the Mountain, Owl in the Shower, Hoot, Flush, or Sign of the Beaver before they come to camp and our classes correspond to those readings.
When looking at the curriculum map consider the time at camp versus number of benchmarks met. Your field trip ends up being a very efficient use of time. There is also a social aspect to camp including working together, respect, awareness and making friends. Camp creates an emotionally safe space where students can try and even fail without fear of losing self esteem. When using inquiry, students will need an emotionally safe environment for open discussions, defending their hypothesis and challenging others ideas.
We know funding is an issue. No school that attends Y-Camp programs receives funding from their district. Parent teacher organizations usually fund a portion of the trip. Most times, parents are asked to donate a portion of the cost. Civic organizations such as Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions Clubs all have relationships with Y-Camp. Conservation organizations like Pheasants Forever have been generous to several of the schools we serve. Public and private grants have funded some trips and so have some local businesses. These organizations recognize that a positive change in students reflects back in the community. Please contact us if you have funding questions.
If you have participated in field trips in the past and were frustrated by the lack of quality programming, the hassle compared to time away or failed expectations, please consider the Y-Camp as the professionals who have been doing these programs for two decades. Please call at (515) 432-7558 *224 or e-mail us firstname.lastname@example.org.