The 3rd Annual Outdoor Education Expo was held at the Central Wyoming College (CWC) Sinks Canyon Center on Friday, September 28. Over 130 students from the 4th grade at Baldwin Creek Elementary and Cornerstone Christian schools in Lander participated in the day-long event. The initial event in 2010 was borne from the ideas set forth in Richard Louv's ground-breaking book "Last Child in the Woods," in which Louv coined the term "nature-deficit disorder." Public and private organziations from across Fremont County to give students options for enjoying, and a better understanding of, the natural world.
The Outdoor Education Expo is designed to get students out of the classroom and into a natural setting to learn about the great outdoors. Groups of thirteen students rotate through ten hands-on, exeperiential learning stations. The stations were spread across pastures, orchards, rock-outcroppings, and meandering waters at the 127-acre campus. The 4th graders were led by college students studying within CWC’s outdoor education and leadership degree program led by instructor Darran Wells. Some of the learning stations included, Leave No Trace, Geology, Bird Identification, Weather and Water, Identifying Wildife, Tracks, and Scat, and Trip Planning. Learning how to safely wade a river, properly use inert bear spray, viewing birds through scopes and binoculars, and touching the various animals skins and horns/antlers, were just a few of the highlighted activities. Each student receives a 30-page outdoor education passport at the beginning of the day that serves as part workbook, part guidebook. At the conclusion of each learning station, the student's passport is stamped by the station leader. The passport provides a great way for students to reflect back on what they learned and keep memories of this special day. The day concluded with the gift of a new fishing pole for each student provided by the Wyoming Game & Fish Department.
The Riverton NWS station was staffed for the third year by Brett McDonald who was joined by Chris Jones. For the first time, the expo was held on a day that had clouds, which helped them discuss how to read the clouds and remain safe! (The first two events were held under cloudless skies, which made for imaginative learning.) Brett and Chris discussed weather safety, the differences between weather and climate, how meteorologists measure the weather, and cloud development and identification. Their finale was showing how clouds are formed by producing a cloud in a bottle. This experiment provides a great way for students to understand how temperature, pressure, and moisture all play a role in cloud formation.
Agencies and organizations that participate in this annual event include: CWC Sinks Canyon Center, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Game & Fish Department, NWS Riverton, Audubon Society, Wyoming State Forestry, University of Wyoming Extension, Popo Agie Conservation District, Central Wyoming College, and the National Outdoor Leadership School.