We are firm believers that parks make excellent classrooms. In addition to learning about ecosystems and wildlife, people who explore the great outdoors can discover more about themselves. Seattle Parks and Recreation established four environmental learning centers throughout our park system to allow youth to be immersed in nature and studies tell us the benefits are numerous.
For the past year, staff have been surveying middle school and high school students who participated in activities at the 4H Challenge Course at Camp Long. The course is composed of elements involving logs, platforms, posts, ropes and wires attached to posts throughout the secondary growth forest of Camp Long, all designed to promote growth cohesion and personal growth.
Using a Washington State University (WSU) evaluation tool, staff surveyed students before and after a three- to four-hour visit to the course. More than 700 surveys were collected and given to WSU graduate students for analysis. The results showed participants reported increases in team work, decision-making, and communication skills and self-efficacy after completing the challenge course. Additionally, students indicated that the course was a positive experience 85% of the time.
“The strength of experiential education comes from framing an experience that pushes student inquiry and cooperation while allowing reflection and learning to occur,” said Challenge Course Manager Ken Turner.
For more information about the challenge course or Camp Long, visit http://www.seattle.gov/parks/environment/challenge.htm.