How many times have we heard it? “When I was a kid, we went outside.” “Kids today are always on their electronics.” ADK’s location in the heart of the Adirondacks makes us uniquely positioned to counter “screen culture,” and get kids outside.
For the past 18 years, our Marie L. Haberl School Outreach Program: Three Seasons at Heart Lake has provided a free science-based approach to environmental education to fourth graders. Over the course of the school year, ADK educators lead over 400 students from some 13 regional schools up Mt. Jo and around Heart Lake to give hands-on lessons in topics such as ecology, animal behavior, tracking and mapping skills, and the Leave No Trace principles. The curriculum aims to promote responsible outdoor recreation, scientific inquiry, and eco-literacy.
The generous support of people like you makes it possible to offer this program to schools free of charge.
Mt. Jo is the first-ever hike for many of these fourth graders. One teacher told us, “Our students are gaining a greater love of the outdoors, a sense of the need to protect our wild areas, and the desire to explore.” And when Covid hit, ADK turned lemons into lemonade by creating a virtual learning component that allowed
us to extend our reach well beyond the Adirondacks. We added seven schools, as well as 34 homeschool groups in places like Brooklyn, Long Island, and Rochester. ADK now has the capability to reach kids everywhere, including children from marginalized areas and underrepresented communities, many of whom have never been in the woods. While we recognize virtual classes are indeed screen time, this use of technology teaches valuable lessons about the outdoors.
What’s most exciting is where we go from here. And that’s to expand the curriculum to engage kids in their communities, schools, and local parks, introducing them to the outdoors, and then facilitate their first trip to the wilderness. Through community partnerships, we are working with kids we never thought we’d be able to reach. We now realize what’s possible. Our wild places belong to all of us. And the best strategy for preserving our natural places is to help cultivate an appreciation for the outdoors among children of all backgrounds.
With your support, we can continue to expand our educational efforts and give more kids of every background an incredible wilderness experience.