Students teach, learn outdoors – Throwback

Chase Rath – Staff Writer

On Oct. 1, 1992, Staff Writer Chris Schukei wrote about  an outdoor learning experience for students interested in teaching. The Hastings Junior High Outdoor Education Program took seventh graders on a two-day “learning adventure” at Camp Augustine. This experience gave  students the opportunity to teach classroom material to their fellow groups of students.

Chris Schukei – Staff Writer

A unique educational program for Hastings Junior High School students is also providing valuable hands-on experience for Hastings College students.

The Hastings Junior High Outdoor Education Program takes seventh graders on a two day and one night “learning adventure” at Camp Augustine. Camp Augustine is a boy scout camp located on the Platte River near Grand Island. Hastings College students who volunteer to help with the program go along and work as counselors or do direct student teaching. 

Dr. Will Locke, professor of education, originated the outdoor ed program when he was a teacher at Hastings Junior High. Locke said that his work with college students in the program has made him see even more benefits to the program than he first realized.

“The college students really benefit from the opportunity to work directly with the kids, as well as to get firsthand experience with the instructors and other trained people who are out there,” he said. “It really helps us wed theory and practice. At the same time, the seventh graders gain from the knowledge and energy that the college students bring with them.”

The two-day event begins with an 8 a.m. departure from Hastings Junior High School. The seventh graders are divided into teams of 10-15 and are under the direct supervision of a teacher/leader and a volunteer assistant from Hastings College. 

The first day is then split into various “blocks” that use the outdoor classroom to emphasize science, environmental awareness, math, maps, language arts and social studies. Late in the afternoon, the students can take their choice of “mini-block” sessions. The college counselors then help the students cook the evening meal. After supper, the counselors are responsible for helping the students prepare a skit dealing with native American folklore to present at the campfire session. Day two is filled with more discovery blocks. All HC volunteers go through a training session that helps them prepare for dealing with junior high students. The training sheets provided to leaders tall them to be ready for students “who are children one moment, adults the next.” Locke defines the role of the college counselor as one who “comforts, supports, and controls the young people. They also need to help make sure that the students are kept busy all of the time.”

HC students majoring in education felt that the experience provided opportunities that will help them in the future. Kirsten Arnold volunteered to help with the program because she wanted to get the field experience of directly working with the kids. 

“I think it’s really good for the college kids to be able to do something like this,” Arnold said. “They will have to deal with similar experiences once they hit the real world, so this is a great chance to learn these things as a student.”

Kyrie Anderson got the opportunity to teach classroom material in the outdoor classroom. Anderson taught science blocks which included discussions of plants and trees at the camp and having students get in the water and sign for water plants and animals. “The kids were really easy to work with and the program is designed very well,” Anderson said. “The kids are constantly moving, so it’s hard for them to cause much trouble.”

Everett Fidler decided to volunteer for the program not only for the field experience, but also because he enjoyed the program so much when he participated as a Hastings Junior High school seventh grader. “I had a great time at Outdoor Ed when I was a student,” Fidler said. “I had helped with other camps before and had a good time at them. Going to Outdoor Ed as a counselor was both educational and enjoyable.” 

HC graduate Greg Mays, now a seventh grade English teacher at HJH, participated in the program both as a college student and now as an HJH instructor. After being on both sides, Mays feels that the program is a great opportunity for anyone interested in a teaching career. “When you’re in college, there are very few opportunities where you really get the chance to see what your rapport with the kids is like,” Mays said. “Outdoor Ed is a great place to see how you can directly relate to the kids. Because of the setting and the small groups, the kids are automatically interested and learning is really enhanced for everybody involved.”