Congratulations to Ryan Shaffer, Deschutes Children’s Forest’s Teacher of the Month for February 2013! Ryan is a 3rd grade teacher at Ponderosa Elementary, which is also next door to the first NatureHood at Pine Nursery Park. Ryan was nominated for his creativity and passion for providing outdoor learning opportunities for his students. His 3rd grade class has hiked to the top of Pilot Butte to study watersheds, canoed at Elk Lake to collect crayfish to study in their classroom, visited Shevlin Park to study macroinvertebrates in Tumalo Creek to assess water quality, and scoped out the Metolius River for a restoration project they will do later this spring. They also plan to visit a petroglyph site as part of their Native American unit. Ryan also believes that you don’t have to get on a bus to take advantage learning opportunities that exist in the natural world. His class has started “Pine Kn-OLOGY”, or the study of Pine Nursery Park with a first grade buddy class. Each month they focus on a different “ology” of the park, including carpology, limnology, ornithology, geology, and dendrology. Wow! You can check out their amazing class website at: http://web.bend.k12.or.us/ryan.shaffer/Class_Website/Pine_Kn-OLOGY.html
We asked Ryan what he saw as the value of taking student learning outside. He shared, “On the most basic level, these are the experiences that students will always remember. In the present culture of data driven instruction, I think it’s especially important to balance that out with meaningful experiences kids will look back on and remember, forever. Taking learning outside also allows students to apply what they’ve been learning, solidifying that knowledge. Learning outside also changes the dynamics of our classroom. I might see a student in a certain light in our classroom, but when we go outside it often helps me view students differently. This is especially true of students who struggle to focus in our room, but are lazer focused when we’re learning outside. Just as some students excel in math or reading, I truly believe that there is an outdoor intelligence. In the future if we want people to value open, natural spaces they have to have those experiences, which learning outside provides.”
“My biggest hope for the Deschutes Children’s Forest is that it enables other educators in a variety of settings, especially those who aren’t as comfortable with outdoor education, to get their students learning outside.”
The Deschutes Children’s Forest would like to thank Ryan for sharing his perspective on this important work and for his amazing efforts in inspiring youth about the natural world. We hope that his work inspires teachers, families, and our community about the importance of connecting all youth with nature.