Freeschool at Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens

Trail-friendly STEM lessons are here!
Long-time followers of Outdoor Ohana and fellow hiking buddies know that we are always finding letters in roots, making letters out of sticks and pretzels, geocaching, navigating with a compass, making sundials…there are so many ways to present preschool and elementary lessons outdoors. That’s why we call it “freeschool.”

Why STEM matters to parents of young children

What you may not know yet, is by 3rd grade most kids have already decided if they’re good at math or not. They’ve already defined their self-efficacy, which is a defining predictor of their likelihood to go into a technical field. You may have read that our country needs to develop 10,000 more engineers and scientists each year to keep up with the rest of the world’s ingenuity. But our educational system is really struggling to prepare kids for this challenge. Did you know our schools rank mid-pack globally? Even in an excellent school district, the best schools are about 60th percentile in math (TIMSS data), which is the elementary “gateway” to the rest of the science/technology/engineering/math (STEM) disciplines.

Getting you started on the STEM path

To that end, a series of 8 articles have been developed (2 for each STEM subject), specifically geared to preschool and elementary age kids. The articles are meant to be a springboard – to give you ideas for integrating these concepts into your next adventure. In time, you’ll develop a style of questioning which will become second nature – you’ll be constantly asking STEM questions and it will be fun! For instance, in our truck we have a little display of the direction we’re going and the temperature outside. When it was 44 degrees here in Washington, I asked “How many degrees does it need to decrease for it to snow?” When I was marathon-training in Kailua, and the kids were both in the jogging stroller “coaching” me (yikes!), we practiced counting quite a bit as the miles (and mailboxes) ticked by. Math is all around us – we need to make it part of our daily dialogue, just as reading is (we all know to read 30 min+ per day to the kids to boost literacy). Doing so will boost your child’s facility with numbers.

Here are the articles – ready to print and carry. When you’re done, please TAKE OUR 2 MIN SURVEY (a usability test) to give us feedback so we can improve them. Thank you for your time and interest!

Are we there yet?
Dams and Rivers
Environments and Ecosystems
Geocaching Treasure Hunt
Math magic
The Lost Art of Fort Building
Tools of the Trail
Words in the World

Matt Paulson, an undergraduate student at SDSU in his final semester, wrote these articles as part of an internship program. A proud uncle and a former Boyscout, he knows that kids and the outdoors are a great match-up, and understands that nature is one of the best classrooms around. He has personally learned and practiced the skills that he shares in these articles many times, and has even taken a wilderness survival course led by Navy SEALS! He is currently getting his degree in English and hopes to pursue a career in technical writing, making easy-to-learn articles just like these. He appreciates any and all input, and has already taken advice from his sister, who teaches a kindergarten classroom.

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