HOWL at Carl Cozier with Wild Whatcom

 Holly Roger with two students at Larrabee State Park

Holly Roger with two students at Larrabee State Park

Thanks to the Chuckanut Health Foundation, over a hundred students at Carl Cozier Elementary are exploring nature outdoors, learning new concepts, and improving mental and physical health. After two months of implementation, the HOWL program (Healthy Outdoor Wanders and Learning) is off to a great start, popular with teachers and students alike. The grant focuses on three different outdoor education pathways within the school: field outings with 2nd and 3rd-grade classes; after-school explorations with a broad range of ages; and outdoor activities with students with disabilities in grades K-5.

The field outings provide an opportunity for kids to leave the classroom and bring their learning outdoors -- to accentuate classroom learning with hands-on exploration and the chance to immerse themselves in nature first-hand. Despite the fact that Carl Cozier sits beside a beautiful nature area, this is, for many students, their first foray into the forest. Trees become the classroom walls, and the ecosystem of forest life, alive with bugs, plants, birds, and fungus, the teacher. In a lesson about observation, for example, students explored spiders, slugs, and insects, as well as the nuances of fall leaves, and began to understand how each was connected. “It was really neat to see students get excited about digging in the dirt to find what might be hiding below. The curiosity and inquiry were endless,” says Wild Whatcom Mentor, Nicole Keeler. “The hardest part of the outing was having to leave the woods at the end!”  Another outing provided the chance for students to become map-makers; exploring the land first-hand and then putting that knowledge to practical use charting the trails within the woods.

As one of the teachers expressed, “I love Wild Whatcom. Learning about the outdoors is so beneficial for our students.” And the enthusiasm is contagious; it’s just as exciting for the mentors working with the students as it is for the students and teachers themselves. Nicole Keeler sums it up perfectly: “It's really empowering to see students during regular field trips and again after school. The interpersonal connections and the consistent exploration in nature create a more meaningful experience for everybody.”