In honor of Earth Month and leading up to our Health and Fitness Day, West Kingston Elementary School (WKES) participated in our first ever "Outdoor Challenge" – a school wide competition to encourage the WKES community to try to spend as much time as possible outside.
From Wednesday, April 16 through Wednesday, April 30, students were asked to log the number of minutes they spend outdoors in any capacity (except those spent participating in organized sports teams). Students were given some suggestions on how and where to go outside and play, hike, ride bicycles, engage in community cleanup efforts, garden, and more. Teachers were encouraged to bring their classes to the Ann Perkins Outdoors Classroom for activities and lessons using materials that were purchased through a grant.
Research shows that unstructured play and interaction with the natural world are important for healthy development in children as well as the physical, mental, and emotional health of both children and adults. Time in nature provides opportunity for physical activity, critical and creative thinking, interaction with community members, and so much more. For the last two years, the WKES PTO and Green Team have focused much of our efforts on the importance of being outside, learning about the environment, and exploring as well as simply playing. We feel that this is such an important part of childhood. We have raised money to add on to our playground; organized volunteers, compiled a resource list, and created a schedule to encourage teachers to use the Outdoor Classroom for lessons and activities; organized “Waste Free Lunches”; and more. Our goal is to help the community develop new routines that lead to happier and healthier lifestyles.
Kimberly Mather, WKES Principal said, “At WKES, we believe that the outdoors is a child's laboratory: a lab for testing the hypotheses and concepts they learn in the classroom - socially, academically, and emotionally."
As a school, WKES logged over 4,400 hours. Participation prizes donated by the URI Outreach Center were given to each student who joined in the Outdoor Challenge and handed in their log. The class with the highest average minutes outside was awarded an extra recess period by their teacher. In addition, the top students in each grade received one of the many fabulous prizes that were donated to WKES from the Audubon Society of RI, Norman Bird Sanctuary, Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association, Roger Williams Park Zoo, Save The Bay, EPA Region 1, and the WKES PTO.
To learn more about the WKES Green Team, the Outdoor Challenge, and other programs, contact Jeanine Silversmith at 401-569-8758 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.