Creating A Learning Community
Because Outdoor Education is an academic experience as well as a social experience, students are occasionally uncertain of the type of behavior expected of them. It is important that students are aware that conventional school rules are applied and enforced along with the Outdoor Education community rules. In general, students are expected to show respect for one another and for the environment.
Students will live for the week in a cabin with a high school-aged cabin leader, two or more schoolmates, and a number of students from other schools. Cabin living is a great opportunity to work together building friendships and developing a feeling of community. Students are responsible for working together to clean and organize the cabin and for planning and performing a skit to present the last evening of the week. The cooperative challenge of the cabin living situation can be a highly fulfilling aspect for students attending Outdoor Education. The quality of the cabin community depends on the attitudes of the students. The most important aspects of positive attitude in the cabin involve:
- Respect for and friendliness toward cabin mates.
- Cooperation with the cabin leader.
- Enthusiastic participation in cabin activities.
- Respect the property of others and the facility.
Each cabin will write a cabin contract on the first day. The contract will be signed and posted in the cabin. In this way, students are empowered to create their own code for living together. If a student struggles with cabin living, they are encouraged to approach a cabin leader, naturalist, or teacher for help.
Trail Time is Class Time
Students are expected to act with appropriate school behavior. Students should recognize that they are guests of the forest and treat the natural classroom with the sensitivity it requires. Teachers may wish to explain to students the characteristics of a good trail group prior to their arrival at Outdoor Education. For Example:
|A Good Trail Group||An Excellent Trail Group|
|Stays on the trail.||Looks around to observe nature.|
|Is quiet while the naturalist talks.||Is enthusiastic and asks questions.|
|Doesn't drop trash.||Picks up trash they spot along the trail.|
|Stays with the naturalist.||Takes on responsible leadership initiative.|
|Completes the assigned task.||Completes the assignment to the very best of their ability.|
|Doesn't lose pens/other supplies.||Returns dropped supplies to classmate or naturalist.|
The dining hall is a space for sharing food, sharing information, and sharing songs. Good table manners, polite conversation, and appropriate behavior are encouraged during meals.
Outdoor Education mealtime etiquette includes:
- Participation in the pre-meal moment of silence.
- Discussion at reasonable volume with tablemates.
- Politeness – please and thank you – directed toward fellow students, teachers, naturalists and kitchen staff.
- Carefully and equally serving the family-style food to all table members.
- Attention to clean-up announcements, especially those regarding compostable and non-compostable materials.
Cabin groups have several opportunities throughout the week to work together to win awards for timeliness, cabin cleanliness, care for the earth, and care for each other. Cabin leader, naturalist and teacher-issued awards are a great way to build cabin enthusiasm and unity.
These awards are positive reinforcements and incentives to encourage students to do the appropriate things. Here they are listed below.
Awards Given by Cabin Leaders
- A.C.T. Award: This award is given to cabins that display a positive Attitude, Cooperate with each other and the other cabins, and Try new things throughout the day. Cabin leaders may also give the A.C.T. 2 award if this behavior continues. (Incentive to have fun and be positive at Outdoor Ed.)
- Earth Award: This award is given to cabins that work together to do something positive for the Earth, i.e. pick up trash outside the cabin or write a poem about the Earth. (Incentive to do something good for the Earth.)
- Fantastic Flush: This award is given to cabins that keep their bathrooms clean, i.e. pick up paper towels, flush toilets, turn off water and lights when done, and shut doors. (Incentive to keep bathrooms clean.)
- Super Table Award: This award is given at all meals to the tables who do the best clean-up job, i.e. only the hopper is standing, students are talking to people only from their table, the table puts their deer ears up when announcements are being made, etc.
Awards Given by Teachers
- Giant Sock/Slipper: This award is given by the teachers ("or the giant") to cabins that have their teeth brushed, pajamas on, and are in bed with lights off by 9:30 pm. (Incentive to get to bed on time.)
- Golden Dustpan Award: This award is given to cabins that keep personal belongings neat, wet clothes hung on bunks, heaters and lights off, and floors swept. (Incentive to keep cabins clean.)
Awards Given by Naturalists
- Mystery Meal Award: This award is given to cabins that arrive to meals on time or early. Mystery meals are a surprise and only happen a few times during the week. (Incentive to get to meals on time.)
The awards are a great way to build enthusiasm and cabin unity. Encourage your students to get in the spirit and do their best to win. Good sportsmanship is also expected, so if students don't win one day, encourage them to give "warm fuzzies" to those who do and go for the award the next day.
© 2017 San Mateo Outdoor Education