A question we are often asked here at Fontenelle Forest is, “What do you even DO all winter?” While it is true that many of our outdoor education programs seem to take on that slow freeze with the weather, there are many opportunities that keep us steadily working day by day.
One of our favorite programs is Afterschool Programming. Research has confirmed that between the hours of 3:00pm and 6:00pm students are at the highest risk for getting involved in activities such as juvenile crime, drugs and alcohol, but when students are being engaged in an afterschool program there are countless benefits! From better attitudes and grades in school to improved aspirations for their own education, students grow in very positive ways from these experiences. Fontenelle Forest counts it a privilege to be included in providing these engaging, hands on moments for students on the topics of science and nature.
Usually split into sessions throughout the school year, we spend anywhere from 6-8 weeks per session visiting the same group of kids on the same day each week. While we visit both elementary and middle schools, our students are generally all near the same grade level within the group. Our schools this session (did we mention we’re visiting four of them every week?), include Gilder and Indian Hill Elementary in Omaha and Franklin and Rue Elementary in Council Bluffs. During this session the students are learning all about the four major types of habitats that surround them in the Midwest including the plants and animals that live in them. Forests, Rivers, Wetlands and Prairies – we find them all to be amazing ecosystems to explore afterschool. And we can’t forget to mention that we often bring along an animal visitor, inspiring the students to ask questions and make discoveries. There is so much joy in getting up close and personal with a furred, feathered, or scaly friend!
Over the course of each session we come to know our students well, and develop relationships with them that are full of learning about the natural world! It is always fun to return to a school for the next session and see the kids from past clubs excitedly waving our way. We can’t wait for our next round of clubs to begin in January! Inside or outside, this time of year is fantastic for adventures at Fontenelle Forest, and they can be found even on the coldest of days!
Grace Gaard, Naturalist