We were eating our Wheaties yesterday, watching the morning new show, CBS This Morning, when they aired a story about a school outside of Atlanta, Georgia where the classrooms are literally outdoors. The reason the students spend their school days outdoors? Studies have shown that spending time out in nature is essential to childhood development. The Chatahoochee Charter School may only be a couple of years old, but standardized testing of their students shows reading scores of third graders are 17 points above the national average, and 26 points above the regional average. They’ve also found fewer kids call in sick, suggesting there is a physical benefit to teaching standard school curriculum in the great outdoors. The story on the nature school really resonated with us; we’ve seen first hand the benefit of kids experiencing life outdoors over the 40 years we’ve been kayaking with whales at Orca Camp.
Un-doing Nature Deficit Disorder
The school was inspired by the 2005 bestselling book Last Child in the Woods, by child advocacy expert Richard Louv. His book brings together countless studies that, according to the author, “directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation — nature-deficit disorder —to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.”
We’ve watched plenty of kids over the years come out of their shell the more time they spend at Orca Camp. When there is no gaming system to plug into their imaginations run free. With no electronic gadgets, kids have to make up their own fun — a beach-side treasure-hunt can lead to an impromptu game of tag. A hike through the rainforest instructs on our unique ecosystem and the plants and animals found here. Books get consumed…sometimes by flashlight well into the night. Kids want to help out around camp, gathering firewood, carrying water up from our fresh running stream, finding the perfect stick to roast marshmallows in over an open fire for after-dinner S’mores. When the kids are having fun, everyone relaxes (including us!). Once the kids are having a blast, their parents start to really unwind too, so the benefits of spending time in nature aren’t just restricted to the younger ones in the group!
The physical benefits are evident too. Children who, at first let their parent do all the paddling in their tandem kayaks on day one, are often leading the paddlers by the end of their trip. They spend time skipping stones, beachcombing, exploring tide-pools for mysterious creatures that lurk benath the rocks. They learn about family structure…as it relates Orcas and other marine mammals, as well as their families. Some even see stars for the very first time, having left big-city light pollution behind.
By working as part of a group they begin to understand team dynamics, and that everyone has a role to play — whether you’re the leader of the pack or the kayak pulling up the rear. They learn about wind power on those days when we hoist a sail between our paddles and let the currents carry us home. The lessons are almost infinite, and infinitely more interesting when learned through integration, rather than a classroom lecture.
Family Orca Camp on Sale
We welcome families with children starting at age eight. Why not give your youngsters the gift of outdoor learning this summer? For a limited time only we are offering a 40th anniversary special on our 4 and 6-Day Orca Camp departures:
On our 6-Day trips we are offering a $100 discount per person for bookings of two or more guests, and, on our 4-Day trips we’re providing a $100 per person discount for group or family bookings of four or more people. Remember, we max out our camp capacity at no more than 10 guests — creating an intimate environment for stellar learning opportunities.
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