Taking FOSS Outdoors

Collage of students investigating trees and plants

Exploring the Natural World

"If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the Earth before we ask them to save it."

David Sobel, Beyond Ecophobia

FOSS throws open the classroom door and proclaims the entire school campus to be the science classroom. The true value of science knowledge is its usefulness in the real world and not just in the classroom. Taking regular excursions into the immediate outdoor environment has many benefits. First of all, it provides opportunities for students to apply things they learned in the classroom to novel situations. When students are able to transfer knowledge of scientific principles to natural systems, they experience a sense of accomplishment.

In addition to transfer and application, students can learn things outdoors that they are not able to learn indoors. The most important object of inquiry outdoors is the outdoors itself. To today's youth, the outdoors is something to pass through as quickly as possible to get to the next human-managed place. For many, engagement with the outdoors and natural systems must be intentional, at least at first. With repeated visits to familiar outdoor learning environments, students may first develop comfort in the outdoors, and then a desire to embrace and understand natural systems.

The last part of most investigations is an outdoor experience. Venturing out will require courage the first time or two you mount an outdoor expedition. It will confuse students as they struggle to find the right behavior that is a compromise between classroom rigor and diligence and the freedom of recreation. With persistence, you will reap rewards—you might be amazed by the transformation of students with behavior issues in the classroom who become your insightful observers and leaders in the schoolyard environment.