Fall at Heart Lake is usually accompanied by the sounds and sights of fourth graders exploring Mt. Jo as participants in ADK’s (Adirondack Mountain Club’s) Marie L. Haberl School Outreach Program: Three Seasons at Heart Lake. As foliage shifts from green to shades of red, orange, and yellow, ADK educators use this time of year to show fourth graders the natural processes behind seasonal changes. But this year, with many students learning remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, ADK is bringing outdoor learning online to continue inspiring a love for nature in the next generation.
ADK’s Three Seasons at Heart Lake is a year-long interpretive program for fourth graders that uses classroom sessions and field trips to Heart Lake to give fourth graders an interactive outdoor learning experience based on science and outdoor recreation. Since the program was founded in 2003, ADK educators have partnered with elementary schools around the Adirondack Park, many of which represent underserved communities.
With field trips cancelled this fall, ADK educators are working with 387 students from 13 schools to encourage them to explore natural wonders in their backyards and neighborhoods with their families. The program has also been expanded to include students who are homeschooled, which has resulted in an additional 39 participating students this year. “One of the biggest goals we have for our school outreach program is to reach a wider and more diverse audience,” said Tom Manitta, ADK Outreach Coordinator. “By adding a digital element to our program, we are now reaching students across New York State. This is an exciting step towards achieving our goal.”
Each week, ADK educators send a video from Heart Lake that focuses on a scientific theme. For example, week three of the program coincided with peak fall foliage at Heart Lake, giving educators an opportunity to share with students why this colorful event occurs and how it prepares trees for winter. Students and their families were then encouraged to take each lesson into their backyards, where they could record their fall observations in a field journal.
“Exploration is a key part of the learning experience,” said Seth Jones, ADK Education Director. “By turning a complex scientific process into a family adventure, we are able to tap into a child’s innate curiosity for the world around them in their home environment.” As a Leave No Trace Accredited Youth Program, outdoor ethics are also woven into each lesson. “An important part of enjoying the outdoors is learning how we impact it,” said Jones. “It is crucial that we introduce the next generation to Leave No Trace outdoor skills and ethics early on, so they know how to minimize their impacts while still having a fun outdoor experience.”
Photo Credit: Ben Brosseau