Making Education Possible
MOSS Works With Public Schools in Time of COVID-19
Since its inception 20 years ago, the mission of the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources’ McCall Outdoor Science School (MOSS) has been to transform lives and communities through research and education.
The many regional and national kudos earned by MOSS attest to its success.
In the wake of the pandemic, while schools across the country considered online learning as an alternative to having kids in the classroom, MOSS put its mission statement to the test.
Thanks to MOSS, children from the McCall-Donnelly area are getting plenty of fresh air – and face-to-face instruction.
Beginning in September, 100 K-5 students from the McCall-Donnelly School District began learning science at MOSS, which operates at U of I’s McCall Field Campus located at Ponderosa State Park on the banks of Payette Lake right next to town. The district assists by furnishing busing and sack lunches. The collaboration between the school district and MOSS allows students to alternate between indoor classrooms in their local elementary schools two or three days per week and outdoor instruction at MOSS the rest of the time.
“Our goal was to support local families and our community with a programming option that helped students have a great year academically and helped families get back to work,” said Gary Thompson, MOSS public relations and leadership director.
Students arrive at MOSS at the same time they would arrive at their elementary schools, but instead of hanging their coats in lockers inside a school building, they keep them on, along with boots and hats, as they hit the trails for a day of learning under the pines.
Our goal was to support local families and our community with a programming option that helped students have a great year academically and helped families get back to work.Gary Thompson, MOSS public relations and leadership director
Jim Foudy, School District 421 superintendent, said the collaboration, like the district’s connection with University of Idaho Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development, or Scouts, has been relatively seamless.
“There is so much synergy going on here,” Foudy said. “It’s a thousand times safer than being a latchkey kid. The MOSS instructors are well-trained, caring adults. They are professionals.”
The elementary schoolers are divided into small pods and are taught a science-based curriculum by U of I College of Natural Resources graduate students, said Beth Kochevar, MOSS K-12 programs coordinator.
“It’s working really well,” Kochevar said. “We’re working closely with the district, so we have students here five days per week.”
Although the MOSS programs are not part of the school district’s educational curriculum, they complement district instruction and operate on a schedule consistent with the McCall-Donnelly school calendar.
The program allows parents to go to work instead of staying at home with their children because of coronavirus-related school closures.
Donations pay tuition for students who qualified for a free-and-reduced lunch program, and team members developed a semester long curriculum geared to outdoor learning.
“This is one of those rare moments when everybody wins,” Foudy said.
Article by Ralph Bartholdt, University Communications and Marketing.
Photography by Joe Pallen, University of Idaho Creative Services
Video by Kara Billington, University of Idaho Creative Services
Published February 2021