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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How Do We Get There?

Every ECO day at any school here in Vermont has its own gifts and challenges of getting out the door. I’m sure each teacher we work with feels the burden of piled rain pants and the reminders that snow pants go on first, then your coat.  Do you have your snack, water bottle, and journal? Someone forgot their boots and socks!?  To top it off there may be an hourly forecast for rain the three hours you plan to be out with your students. Or, the first snow squall passes through in the midst of playing games in an open field that leads to bursts of joy and the chasing of snowflakes with tongues sticking towards the sky. Then a student steps in a mud hole up to their knee on a chilly October day. The next thing you know it’s a cooperative engineering moment amongst the trapped and the rescuers.  

What has already been achieved as a lifelong lesson in the classroom is how to take care of yourself. Getting those mittens on and zippers zipped is not easy. The social modeling of watching others able to master these simple self- care tasks helps other children to believe that they can do the same.  We can do it together with positive encouragement. We can get dressed, pack our bags and walk all the way to our destination! These are the first steps to developing self-efficacy. With a strong self-efficacy students believe in themselves to accomplish tasks that are challenging and then reach their goals.

It’s unanimous that the stumbling and bumbling of laying down the habits of getting ready for ECO pays off in the field and forest. The simplest acts of climbing a steep hill, building a shelter for a mouse,  or coming together to hear a classmates story of discovery are all built off of the collective belief that, Yes, we can do this. I can do this. I am succeeding and I am learning.

It’s all about getting there. Once we have arrived, no matter what route you have taken, the learning begins to unfold in a multitude of ways.  And who is doing all this learning? I believe every one of us, large and small.


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