School of the Wild is a statewide initiative to increase outdoor learning experiences for elementary and middle school students across Iowa. The University of Iowa’s College of Education in partnership with Iowa schools, County Conservation Boards, and many other local conservation organizations across the state work together to bring School of the Wild to students. School of the Wild strives to provide all students with a meaningful, outdoor learning experience that develops a sense of awareness and appreciation for the natural world, and in turn, leads them to act with positive stewardship for all things wild.
Participating counties: Decatur, Ringgold, Jackson, Jones, Linn, Washington, Johnson, Iowa, Poweshiek, Guthrie, Cass, Montgomery, Hamilton, Webster, Dickinson, Clayton, Fayette, Buchanan, Henry, Adams, Taylor, Pottawattamie, Audubon, Mahaska, Butler, Grundy, Dallas, Allamakee, Winneshiek, Black Hawk, Muscatine, Jasper, Tama, Howard, Cerro Gordo, Polk.
Educators and administrators share their experience with School of the Wild.
Kenny Slocum, the Naturalist and Resource Manager at Clayton County Conservation, reflects on his experience guiding student learning at School of the Wild.
Drury Outdoors visits fifth and sixth graders from Central Decatur Community School District during School of the Wild.
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School of the Wild is made possible by the communities it serves. Participating Schools partner with local organizations to plan and implement School of the Wild for their students.
School of the Wild happens thanks to the following groups of people:
- Participating Classroom Teachers & School Staff
- County Conservation Boards
- Iowa Lakeside Laboratory
- ISU Extension
- City Parks & Recreation Departments
- Iowa Department of Natural Resources
- US Fish and Wildlife Service
School of the Wild is supported by the Iowa Wildlife Federation, Green State Credit Union, the State of Iowa’s REAP CEP Grant Program and individual donor support.
No two School of the Wild programs look the same! The outdoor learning experience is designed to uniquely meet the needs of the learners and the local environment.
But they do look similar ...
Pillars of a School of the Wild experience include:
- Extended Learning Experience
- Learning with a Small Group of Peers
- Place-Based Learning Activities
- Interdisciplinary Curriculum
- Accessible for all Learners
School of the Wild runs during the traditional academic year in the fall or spring. For no less than four days, “school” takes place in a local park or natural spaces in the students’ community. In small groups of 8-15 of their peers, students explore one of five unique areas of study each day with local naturalists, conservationists, and their classroom teachers. Areas of study often include subjects such as ornithology, prairie natural history and ecosystems, archeology, wetland ecosystems, and woodland wildlife and ecosystems. The curriculum is designed to be place-based, in which the environment is uniquely required for the activity and the concepts are relevant to the students and the local context. Activities incorporate science, language arts, social studies, art, math, physical education, and outdoor recreation. School of the Wild strives to meet students’ physical, emotional, and cognitive needs to make the program accessible for all learners.
School of the Wild provides a multi-day, place-based, outdoor learning experience. The overarching learning outcomes include:
- Students foster a greater sense of place and motivation to adopt conservation and environmentally sustainable behaviors.
- Students’ self-efficacy and sense of identity within their school community improves.
- Students gain confidence in their ability to apply science and engineering practices, literacy skills, and creative arts to deepen understanding of relevant natural phenomena and how people interact with their environment.
The University of Iowa is expanding its wilderness education program to reach 4,500 elementary school children this year, and it should bring the outdoor learning experience to more than 6,000 next year.
Housed in the University of Iowa College of Education, School of the Wild partners with schools across the state to give kids an opportunity to learn about the natural world through immersion.