"Walking is man’s best medicine."
– Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, 460-377 B.C.
I’m now halfway through a condensed college/high school course that’s not online; it’s a face-to-face (actually, mask-to-mask) Outdoor Skills course. Challenge excepted—basically because no one else wanted the job!
Yes, being with a bunch of students during a pandemic, wearing a mask and hence gaining pimples around the mouth and nose like I did back in high school can push up the anxiety levels. Not to mention that my hearing has dropped. I’m getting older, and I was a drummer in a rock band in years past. It’s beyond frustrating having issues hearing the students who are wearing masks most of the time—and my darn glasses are constantly fogging up.
It’s not easy. But my sister, who is a nurse practitioner and wears a mask far more than I, reminds me daily to “suck it up butter-cup.”
The students I teach also have unique learning abilities. In the old days we called them “students at risk” but that’s a term my colleagues and I are trying to alter. Yes, they don’t adhere to the normal teaching/learning practices. They are the “lost toys” sort to speak. But I prefer hanging around with them, to be quite honest. They tell it like it is.
My routine is to meet them each day and we start the morning with a two-hour hike in the woods, then go back to the enclosed classroom for PowerPoints of trees, mammals, fish, herptiles… and then we go back outside. We basically spend as much time outdoors as we can. We walk in sun, rain and hail…and they love every minute of it. The rule is that as long as they practice social distancing, and we are outdoors, they don’t have to wear their masks.
I’ve been taking students out in the woods for countless years. I’ve always believed that time outdoors can be far better than time in an indoor classroom while teaching. Now, due to COVID-19, the school administrators aren’t fighting me on this. They are encouraging it—or just not worrying so much about the kids wandering around in the woods.
Today we ended the week with a field trip and were able to hike in the woods all day. They wandered far beyond school grounds, lit fires, ate lunch in the woods and some even took a pee in the forest.
I’ve gone from keeping everyone inside to keep them safe to keeping them outdoors… to keep them safe.