Education Spotlight: MCOE program gives students deeper understanding of natural world

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- In ABC30's segment, Education Spotlight, Action News Anchor Landon Burke will talk with Merced County Office of Education (MCOE) officials about some of the biggest topics in education.

A new pilot program aims to give North Valley students a deeper understanding of the natural world.

Landon Burke learned more about the MCOE's Outdoor STEAM Adventure Program.

Landon: Give me a little bit of background on what exactly the Outdoor STEAM Adventure Program is.

Matt Edwards: The idea was to kind of replicate what occurs at our Outdoor School at Camp Green Meadows, but a little closer to home. With the pandemic and travel restrictions and stuff, the hope was to design and create something that students could do a little bit closer to home, where it wasn't an all-day trip to go do something. So that's kind of what started it, and it evolved from there.

Landon: What is the benefit of that? For somebody who's not familiar with Camp Green Meadows. What's the benefit of getting kids out in the natural world?

Adrienne Nau: To build environmental literacy and to connect students to the outside world, they need to be in it. It is nature's classroom. And so to get students outside and into nature's classroom, plus it's also a good push back to distance learning. Our students have had a lot of screen time in the last year and a half. Teachers would love to be able to get kids off screens more than they have been able to. And so being able to get kids outside it's a very safe environment. It's been one of the safest things it's the first things to open and all of our restaurants and such, so it's a safe environment. It's a natural classroom it supports science education, but it also connects students to the world around them by understanding how those environmental principles work and impact them. So for example, we are focusing on the Merced River watershed in our initial pilot. That Merced River Watershed connects to our agricultural community because it's the irrigation water that feeds the families of the valley. It is a recreation site for river rafting and tubing, and so we want them to experience that as well down the road. That's why it's called 'Adventures' is because at some point, we're hoping to bring some Adventure/Recreation to it as well. Right now, we're working on the curriculum initially. And so, and we also want them to connect to it through their observations of being a naturalist and understanding this concept of "Leave No Trace" and how to interact with the natural world in a responsible manner and be good stewards of the land.

Landon: While we're in the pilot program phase of this, who are you guys looking to connect with? Were you looking to get involved with this?

Adrienne: We're working with our internal partners right now, just because it's the most accessible. And right now, we've worked so far this year. Next week we're taking some migrant education students out to the river Henderson Park. These are the children of the families that live in our migrant camps and part of our seasonal workforce that travels. We have a program through our county that works with our migrant students. We've also worked with the teachers at our Valley community sites which are our alternative education sites. So those are our internal partners and then we're being supported by additional internal partners. When we say, it takes a village. It does take a village to get kids outside!
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