Inspiring Young Minds Through Nature
Our Diamond Brand Kindred Spirit community continues to inspire us. Meet Shelby. It is an honor to have people like Shelby part of our extended family. Shelby is a school teacher, outdoor advocate, and happy camper who is dedicated growing the future generations. Read her story and the epic outdoor adventure she brought her class on.
For those of you who don’t know already, I’m an elementary school teacher. So many of my days are filled with young aspiring minds and motivated hearts that are eager to obtain knowledge as well as experiences. If no one has ever told you, this is one of the most difficult grades to teach. Not only is there an overwhelming amount of content to be learned, but also there’s such a wide variation in ability level between these students. I am a teacher that has students who walk into her class who may not have the confidence, independence, or skill set to independently read. Though when they leave me at the end of the year it’s as though they have transformed into young adults proud to show the world what they can read and knowledge, they can confidently apply on their own.
As these six and seven-year-olds step into my classroom, their minds are like little sponges. They want to know and understand the world in which they are surrounded by. Through my role in the classroom, I have found an abundance of opportunities to introduce students to outdoor experiences by integrating it into our grade level content and organizing community meet-ups. I wholeheartedly believe there is an importance of teaching future generations about the outdoors as well as sharing experiences. During these moments kids need to build confidence, discover a love for nature, grasp motive to question and wonder, seek out adventure, as well as grow in the wild.
All of this began simply by sharing my passion with my class and allowing them to get to know more about my personal life through my adventures and outdoor experiences. After each break or weekend, my class always starts our mornings by greeting one another and sharing what we did over the weekend. I have always made efforts to share a little about my outdoor adventures whether it was with a few pictures, descriptions of the trails, or fun facts about why I would seek out unique destinations. I have even integrated learning about extraordinary geographical locations and national parks through informational guided reading. This has brought enthusiasm to social studies lessons about landforms, map skills, and needs or wants lessons. Who knew someone could totally bring to life the excitement of learning about explorers like Lewis and Clark or president Theodore Roosevelt?! Things I tie into these lessons include packing the 10 essentials for survival, animal and plant identification, conservation, and creating the US Forest Services for both national and state parks.
This year I finally took a big step out of my comfort zone because I felt as though my duty was to be somebody. I organized my first class hike where students and their parents were invited to join me on a local trail. To be honest, when I first put the idea out there with my class I would have been thrilled if one or even two kids showed. My heart was completely overflowing with the amount of support for my first-grade students. Their enthusiasm and excitement as we were exploring were unforgettable.
As we hiked the trails several of my students stopped to mention how much fun they were having and how this adventure was such a good idea. They applied their map skills by locating our class on the map and directing our next steps as we made our way along the trails. We even learned about the 7 Leave No Trace Principles to uphold and apply while exploring within nature. This has been an opportunity not only to build community but also efforts to influence others to take the time to get outdoors. I had some parents admit they had no clue their student would love the outdoors so much. Everyone was even asking about when and where we could hike again. Through these motivated efforts, it goes to show that putting your energy into creating authentic experiences for others can go such a long way.