For 80 fifth graders at Eisenhower and Horace Mann Elementary Schools, the classroom was moved outdoors.
Students spent Monday and Tuesday at Outdoor Camp. This annual event is held at Forest Lake Camp, south of Ottumwa. Students attend a variety of education sessions, camp overnight, sit by a campfire, and enjoy nature.
Today’s sessions included Fishing, Sensing Nature, Fitness in the Forest, Animal Identification, and Shelter Building. Several community volunteers were on hand to lead the sessions. Students experienced yoga, catching fish, building a basic shelter, picking bones out of owl pellets, and hiking through the woods blindfolded.
It was a lucky morning for fishing at the lake. “It was slow at first but now we’ve caught 10,” one student commented. Volunteer Brian Bell, a camp alumni, said that for most students, it was their first fishing experience. Pioneer Ridge provides the rods and reels. He shared that most students were able to catch a fish.
Students were amazed at the bones and skulls found in owl pellets. While students were tentative to touch the regurgitated pellets at first, once a few started finding bones, all students joined in. “This is fun!” a student said.
Wearing safety vests, eye covers, and holding a rope, groups of students experienced nature using their other senses. During the Sensing Nature session, they were slowly walked through a wooded area. Teachers and high school students guided the students safely through the trail. “We’re on solid ground, hallelujah,” one student commented after crossing a small footbridge.
And sleeping in the cabins? “I slept amazing!” shared one girl.