Anyone who follows Mountain Roots’ social media content may have noticed recent posts about outreach. Indeed, our Spring 2021 Outreach Program is up and running, signaling a major annual pivot for us. This is when we, as an organization, transition from winter administration, curriculum development, and project management to full-swing execution mode (basically over night). It’s always an exciting time for Mountain Roots to take immediate advantage of the warmer, longer days and celebrate western North Carolina’s emergence from hibernation. What a better way to do this than to get as many kids as possible outside!
Outreach is an organization’s point-of-contact with the community at large. For Mountain Roots, this is a multi-institutional endeavor, unified under the common goal of facilitating meaningful outdoor time for kids. This spring, we get to work with staff and students from Brevard Elementary School, Pisgah Forest Elementary School, Rosman Elementary School, and TC Henderson School of Science and Technology.
“Field Trip Day”
Remember when it was “field trip day,” at school and you anticipated getting to have new experiences with your classmates? Personally, I have more memories from class field trips than almost anything else in school. Why? Because these excursions disrupted the monotony of school days, weeks, months and gave us something to tangibly experience together. Things that happened on field trips (whether intended or not) were talked about for years! Unfortunately, the 2020-2021 school year has made it much more difficult to safely execute these adventures. That’s why we believe this program is more important than ever, bringing the field trip experience to school campuses and exposing students to a whole new way of seeing their own school.
As an Outreach Instructor, I speak to a lot of teachers in local schools. I want to get a sense of how they feel about the students’ collective status and how Mountain Roots can support them. In several cases, teachers vocalize the underutilization of outdoor teaching spaces, even though every school in the area has one.
For every Mountain Roots Outreach class, we ask the teacher of that class to come outside with us. This, because you can imagine how helpful it is to have an adult present who knows everyone’s names and tendencies. But something else is happening, too. Teachers participate in the employment of these incredible outdoor spaces and hopefully get ideas in how to perpetuate their use. We hope to create poignant moments where students come up to us after a class and say, “Hey! That was FUN!” That’s right kids, playing outside is actually fun. The world is crazy, adults are stressed, iPads have battery lives, but nature is the playground that never closes.
Mobile Outdoor Ed
The best way I can describe this part of my job is that it is mobile outdoor education. We come to you! The best thing is that this program is 100% free for every student that participates and we would very much like to keep it that way. All kids deserve the opportunity to connect with nature, the community, and themselves through a specialized curriculum. All kids deserve to get a break from classroom walls and screens to breathe some fresh air. All kids deserve to form new memories through novel experiences with their classmates. Mountain Roots’ success can hardly be quantified; it is measured through the joy of the people we serve: the students. (Or, in my case, the follow-up “air high-fives” from kids as they make their way back into the school following a Mountain Roots class).