Students Take Their Science Learning Outdoors During Pandemic
McCALL, Idaho — Dec. 17, 2020 — In the wake of this year’s pandemic, children from one Idaho school district are getting plenty of fresh air — and teacher time.
Beginning in September, 100 K-5 students from the McCall-Donnelly School District are learning science at the University of Idaho McCall Outdoor Science School(MOSS) located less than 10 minutes across town.
The collaboration between the school district and MOSS, which operates at U of I’s McCall Field Campus located at Ponderosa State Park on the banks of Payette Lake, has allowed 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 is to support local families and our community with a programming option that can help students have a great year academically and help families get back to work,” said Gary Thompson, MOSS leadership coordinator.
The district assists by furnishing busing and sack lunches.
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 outdoor learning under the pines.
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 collaboration allows parents to go to work instead of staying at home with their children because of coronavirus-related school closures. More than $27,000 in donations helped pay tuition for students who qualify for a free-and-reduced lunch program, and team members developed a semester-long curriculum geared to outdoor learning that will continue for the rest of the school year.
“This is one of those rare moments when everybody wins,” Foudy said.
(Media Note: Photos and videos of MOSS are available at uidahophoto.photoshelter.com/galleries/C00008pwKWpfuGDc/G0000DJmsCt_UG8A/MOSS-McCall-Donnelly
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About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at uidaho.edu