Independent Research Shows Camp’s Science Curriculum Enhances Student Performance at School and Promotes “Seriously Fun” Learning
Today, with educators statewide committed to improving science education, many Texas teachers find this is a great time to get outdoors and turn their attention toward making learning more meaningful, relevant and fun for all kids at Sky Ranch in Van, TX. That’s because their students are experiencing academic success back home with improved standardized science test scores after they participate in Sky Ranch School Programs, according to a recent independent study. Visit: www.skyranch.org.
Research conducted by Cheryl T. Burette, Ph.D. evaluated the Sky Ranch School Programs science curriculum and its impact on student academic performance. The study revealed that 28% more students who participated in the Sky Ranch School Programs passed the STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Reediness) test than those who did not attend. The results indicate that students at schools participating in Sky Ranch’s environment-based curriculum do better academically or show improvement after the introduction of interactive outdoor science education.
“For more than 20 years, our outdoor education program has enjoyed a strong reputation for delivering high quality experiences to public and private schools featuring a strong Earth, physical and life science curriculum, in addition to interactive historical lessons and leadership development,” says Todd Witt, Sky Ranch School Programs Director. “Outdoor educational experiences with intentional purpose powerfully impact a young person’s intellectual, physical, spiritual, social and moral development. At Sky Ranch, we see it even impact test scores as well, as evidenced by these recent findings.”
Sky Ranch works closely with teachers and administrators to develop programming specifically designed to support their learning goals at school. This cohesive partnership engages hands-on learning experiences that connect to kids’ real lives and helps make education relevant. “Using our 450-acre summer camp facility as a classroom, we can offer kids educational opportunities far more compelling than a textbook or sitting within the four walls of a classroom,” says Witt.
Sky Ranch is one of the country’s premier summer camps, as well as a widely regarded School Programs provider and Retreat/Conference Center. By combining cutting edge curriculum with a well-trained energetic staff, Sky Ranch School Programs is impacting lives in schools across the state by giving students increased access to engaging learning experiences through class trips and leadership development. The program also features environmental education experts and re-enactment historians who bring the love of learning to life for students on class trips to Sky Ranch’s sprawling picturesque landscape deep in the piney woods of East Texas.
Sky Ranch School Programs supplement and enhance the curriculum taught in the classroom. Serving students in grades 4-6, Sky Ranch offers a host of different courses, both academic and adventure based, that allows teachers to customize a class trip or an overnight visit to meet the needs of their students and curriculum requirements. “Through outdoor education, training and recreation Sky Ranch promotes active learning through direct personal experience and offers excitement, fun and adventure within a framework of safety,” says Witt.
Witt explains that Sky Ranch School Programs are set apart because they are not just aligned to support the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) assessment; they are intentionally designed to support the TEKS curriculum while supplementing each teacher’s classroom lesson plan to best serve the needs of the students.
“The students are able to associate concepts learned in the classroom with real, tangible examples from nature at Sky Ranch,” says Witt. The unique teaching tools used by the Sky Ranch School Programs staff make the concepts memorable and allows the teachers the ability to refer back to these experiences even weeks after the trip is over.”
The skilled professional Sky Ranch School Programs staff is a collective group of highly-qualified, postgraduate degree educators, naturalists and environmental specialists unique to most outdoor education programs. This experienced team is specifically equipped and trained to make abstract concepts come alive for students, when they apply those concepts through experiences in a real-world situation.
For example, at Sky Ranch kids take the idea of erosion and apply it as they explore an actual watershed, including a lake, stream and estuary. A visiting fifth-grade teacher recently observed, "We had studied erosion in our classroom and done numerous experiments, but the students didn't make the connection. At Sky Ranch it suddenly made sense to them."
Located in scenic East Texas, Sky Ranch is uniquely blessed with the incredible facilities of a 5-star summer camp including a beautiful lake, nature center and magnificent woodlands. The outdoors makes a terrific classroom where students can observe, listen, count, measure and ask questions. At Sky Ranch, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students actively engage in learning outdoors through taking water quality samples around the 90-acre lake, restoring native landscapes, gardening and recording field observations about weather, flora and fauna.
“We see firsthand how outdoor education makes a major contribution to physical and environmental education and it enhances many other curriculum areas,” says Witt. “It contributes to personal growth and social awareness and develops skills for life and the world of work. Qualities such as a sense of responsibility and a purpose in life are nurtured at Sky Ranch. Best of all, our kids experience a great deal of intrinsic enjoyment and satisfaction from just being unplugged from electronics and tuned into the nature around them,” he adds.
Many teachers and administrators are currently making plans to take their students to Sky Ranch late winter and early spring. “We’re gearing up for our class trip this spring because visiting Sky Ranch is more than a school outing, it’s an important part of our lesson plan that promotes fun learning and helps boost our kids’ test scores,” Susan Mundt, 5th Science, Academy at Nola Dunn, Burleson, TX. “The active learning and outdoors adventure our kids experience at Sky Ranch introduces our students to the environment in a way which develops an understanding, appreciation, awe, wonder and respect. When we go to Sky Ranch, we’re able to apply what we’ve learned in the classroom and bring it outdoors. That’s why it has such an impact on our kids because they can learn by doing, which promotes knowledge comprehension and retention,” she says.
Sky Ranch School Programs foster sensitivity to the environment, and help students to see themselves in a global context. This may make an impact on these future adults by generating an awareness and need for the sustainable use of the world’s natural resources. “Sky Ranch encourages a positive ‘opting in’ and ‘can do’ attitude,” says Joynce Henk, 5th Grade Science, Green Valley Elementary, Birdville, TX. “Students’ horizons are broadened and new challenges come to be relished rather than shunned, and perseverance and determination are reinforced. By sharing these experiences, many kids not only benefit on tests, they show increased in self-esteem and relationships with teachers. Our kids also bring back a sense of stewardship of the environment with lasting impressions made about the importance of conservation and the relevance of science.”
For more information on about the top-quality outdoor education experience offered through the Sky Ranch School Programs, visit www.skyranch.org or call (903) 266-3300.
About Sky Ranch
Impacting 58,000 guests each year, Sky Ranch offers an unparalleled array of programs, activities and experiences in a safe positive and exciting environment. With nearly 60 years of experience and 3 locations, Sky Ranch’s goal is the pursuit of excellence and the organization is dedicated to creating unique camp opportunities and promoting intentional, recreation-based learning and personal growth.
Its caring and carefully selected counselors encourage fun, purposeful interactions and provide extraordinary and meaningful camp experience that impacts lives forever.