The McCleary decision! High-stakes testing! Common Core!

In the Northwest’s raging and incessant debate about education funding, testing, and standards, the question of what gets taught is never far from center stage. A growing network of schools and reformers starts from the premise that 21st century challenges from economic globalization to climate change call less for content mastery than for a set of abilities that group loosely around “learning how to learn.”

The emerging field of “Deeper Learning” seeks to shift educators’ focus from “teaching to the test” to helping children learn to think, communicate, collaborate, and initiate. School districts across Cascadia and beyond face the challenge of how to retool classrooms and educators to impart these 21st century skills.

  • One of the best ways to deliver Deeper Learning, though, requires no classroom walls at all. Hands-on learning about nature, in nature, switches children into a discovery mode: the place where deeper learning happens.

    One such program, Oregon’s Outdoor School has been connecting sixth graders with nature for five decades. School funding shortfalls have put this program at risk. As I wrote in Sunday’s Oregonian:

    A wedge of inequity has split the treasured Outdoor School experience into a ‘lite’ version – good enough for public school kids – and a ‘full’ version for schools and communities that choose to pay more . . . The full benefits of residential outdoor learning cannot be absorbed in just 72 hours.

    New awareness of the learning benefits that Outdoor School delivers may help advocates restore and expand the program, bringing a real Deeper Learning experience to thousands more children.

    Read the column here.