Weekly News Brief 11/11-11/18 To bolster academics, Philly schools turning to the outdoors | Experts stress project-based learning for all-day kindergarten

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To bolster academics, Philly schools turning to the outdoors – By Kristen A. Graham, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Robert Mitchell was 35 feet above the ground, suspended from harnesses and wires amid the tall trees of Wissahickon Valley Park, and he was terrified.

"I can't do this," said Mitchell, a ninth grader, shaking visibly.

Below him, a knot of his classmates from Penn Treaty High School — some of whom he knew a little, while others had been just faces in the hallway — encouraged him with shouts and claps to move forward on his Outward Bound ropes challenge. And from the tree to Mitchell's left came a voice strong and sure.

"I won't let you fall, bro," said Jose Naranjo-Betancourt, Mitchell's partner on the climb, tethered to him as they made their way up trees and across ropes together.

Increasingly, city students are having moments like these. The Philadelphia School District has doubled down on its partnership with Outward Bound's Philadelphia arm, spending up to $340,000 annually so students can climb tall trees, take nature walks, and complete physical challenges in one- and multi-day expeditions, all in the name of social and emotional learning.


Experts stress project-based learning for all-day kindergarten – By Jessica Campisi, Education Dive

As a former kindergarten teacher at a Title I school, Katie Benson said a majority of her students came from high-poverty households. So, when snack time rolled around, most didn’t have healthy options – or know about them.

“The kids didn’t know what are healthy foods or where to get them,” Benson, who now works at Ball State University in its early childhood, youth and family studies department, told a room of attendees at the annual National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) conference in Washington, D.C. “They didn’t know what these foods were called.”

At the time, Benson’s elementary school in Columbus, Indiana, was starting to infuse more project-based learning (PBL) into the curriculum. And after discovering her students’ unfamiliarity with healthy food options, Benson knew she had her classroom’s next project.

First, Benson had to figure out where the class stood on healthy food options. Together, the group made an “I wonder” chart, asking questions like, “Do we want to eat vegetables? What foods are healthy? Where do we get them?”

Food experts, including a local grocery store manager and a nutritionist, also spoke to the class about healthy food options and how to make them. A field trips to the store let kids pick out these foods themselves, and come presentation time, each group prepared their snacks for their classmates.