Real-World Science, Outdoors

Leavenworth Students Thrive in Shanda Holm’s Outdoor Classroom

When 36 inches of snow fell in Leavenworth in less than 24 hours this January, most schools shut down for days and residents hunkered down indoors. One teacher, however, had a different plan. Seizing the opportunity for unlimited free building material, Shanda Holm met her students on the first Monday after the storm with an assignment: design and build a new classroom out of snow.  

“We took a deep dive into engineering design,” says Holm, a teacher with Home Link Education, a Cascade School District K-12 program that blends home instruction with the classroom experiences. “They did a design charrette to figure out what to build.”  

This type of applied science is common in Holm’s program. Through Home Link, she works with 26 students ranging in age from fourth through eighth grade, broken into three groups. One group has selected a fully on-line program. In the other two, parents provide home instruction with the support of progress report monitoring and elective classes at school. After Holm moved the program outside last year, parents overwhelmingly requested that the Integrated Science Outdoor block continue.   

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FieldSTEM in Action

Designing High Impact Field Experiences

One of the greatest benefits of Zoom workshops has been the ability for more participants to learn from some incredible educators around the state. Dale Sweet, 6th grade teacher at Walter Strom Middle School in Cle Elum, has been integrating high-impact field experiences into his curriculum for the past 39 years. As the co-facilitator for the Designing High Impact Field Experiences workshop in March 2022, Dale was able to share his knowledge and expertise with educators new to designing these types of experiences. His anecdotes, tips, and suggestions were invaluable to participants. “It really helps to have your admin support” stated Dale, who also reiterated how important it is to collaborate with teachers of other subject areas.

In Dale’s current iteration of his 6th grade field experience, he works with other 6th grade teachers to incorporate math, science, ELA, art, and social studies. 

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Implementing OSPI’s Environmental Literacy Plan

PEI administers Environmental Literacy Grants

OSPI recently revised the State Environmental Literacy Plan which aims to develop individual and collective understanding, skills, cultural awareness, motivation, and practice of environmental stewardship. The plan offers a set of four broad goals in the categories of K-12 Education, Educator and Administrator Professional Learning, Community Engagement, and Implementation/Funding.

This spring, OSPI provided funding to school districts to support the implementation of environmental literacy projects. As part of this process, OSPI contracted PEI to administer these grants. The grants provide professional learning for educators and expand outdoor learning opportunities for youth across Washington. District plans include outdoor classroom development, professional learning, and purchasing essential outdoor learning supplies, binoculars, microscopes, field guides, and garden tools.

Upcoming Events

Date Workshop Location
May 19 FieldSTEM: Schoolyard Investigations Grades 2-3 (Spanish) Statewide (online)*
May 19 & June 2 Solutions Oriented Learning Storylines: Urban Forestry PSESD Region
May 24 FieldSTEM: Introduction to Civic Engagement Statewide (online)*
June 4 Outdoor Learning in Early Childhood: Growing up WILD! and Trees & Me Kittitas County/ Ellensburg SD
June 15 & 16 FieldSTEM with Wahkiakum School District Wahkiakum SD

*Registration open to the public. Visit our calendar for more information.

  With Gratitude

Thank you to our recent funders

Brian & Deborah Bahs
John Ison
The Russell Family Foundation
WA Department of Natural Resources
Gareth Waugh

Copyright © 2022 Pacific Education Institute, All rights reserved.

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