Campers and Counselors

After two years of research with experts and children, the design and practices of Islandwood: school in the woods, was set in motion. The state of Washington had implemented mandatory environmental education for kindergarten through the twelfth grade with an emphasis toward the fourth and fifth grade level. To meet these education needs, former logging land on Bainbridge island was chosen as the site to teach hands on environmental sciences. Islandwood quickly established a school overnight program for low income school children in the local area. In this program graduate students from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute educate the visiting fourth and fifth graders with real world, hands on experiences in a fun, outdoor environment. The over 250 acre campus is an experiment in sustainability itself. Different buildings on Islandwood feature alternative technologies, building materials and design all with sustainability in mind. Along with the educational activities, Islandwood is in a beautiful area with modern facilities that provide an adequate setting for weddings, conferences and corporate retreats.

Washington was able to set in motion a requirement (unfunded), mandating outdoor learning and a program was created to fill the void. With no help from the legislation, funding from tuition, fees, endowments and donations has led to Islandwood’s successful programs. ¬†What if the program could be expanded? Families in Washington and all over the country struggle every summer to fill their children’s time with productive, fun, learning experiences. Washington could mandate outdoor learning all summer long and with a bit of help from the public sector and private funding, overnight camps could spring up all over the state. Undergraduate and graduate students would take the place of counselor-instructors as summer internship programs. These internships would depend on the region and the college student’s area of interest or major with possible class credit as an incentive. There are lots of details that would need to be worked out, but if summer breaks continue; why not try and get every kid in a fulfilling camp experience where they can learn from older generations about the environment around them? Islandwood is a great start and Washington has set the bar for teaching environmental learning for students, but why not progress and raise the bar?

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