Do you remember your childhood days of spending hours in the woods, playing in the creek, building forts, and using your imagination in the great outdoors? Consider what it would have been like to have your schoolwork involve more playtime in the woods? For some students in Morgantown, West Virginia, this has become a reality.
The Mountain Stewardship and Outdoor Leadership School (Mountain SOL) School has opened in partnership with Morgantown Learning Academy (MLA) and builds on the outdoor, after school programs that Mountain SOL Director Jen-Osha Buysse started in 2011. Mountain SOL is currently operating in its 3rd year of in-school, after school, and summer programming in outdoor education. School programs are taught during regular MLA classes in which instructors for all subjects incorporate outdoors-oriented material into their lessons.
The classes are more than just lesson plans taught outside — they’re fun, fully immersed experiences. Mountain SOL’s emphasis on passion, personal responsibility and leadership skills equips students with the tools to make real changes in their communities and the world at large. It is critical that we raise a generation of youth that are not only aware of the problems facing the environment, but are passionate about finding solutions. “You can’t protect anything until you love it. The spirit of Mountain SOL is based in fun and adventure, so kids learn environmental stewardship and social responsibility from a place of passion,” says Jen-Osha.
PreK through 8th grade students enjoy in-school environmental education while students from 2nd through 12th grade can enjoy the after school programs and summer workshops. Mountain SOL has recently created an emphasis on wilderness first aid. Students in the Mountain Jaguares after school program have spent this school year learning disaster awareness in the woods.
Mountain SOL doesn’t solely focus on outdoor education; the school also shines light on social justice issues. MLA’s middle school class has been introduced to a new spin on West Virginia history through Mountain SOL’s Shattering Stereotypes class. This year-long interactive history and geography unit has introduced students to the state’s history of extractive industries and the mine wars that evolved from social justice concerns. The class included field trips to Jamestown, The Mountain Institute, and Matewan.
Mountain SOL is in its 3rd year of summer workshops. These workshops are open to 2nd through 12th grade students. Because of Mountain SOL’s unique, year-round outdoor education lessons there are opportunities for all ages to become stewards and learn about nature. If you are interested in enrolling a student or simply want to learn more information about the school, visit www.MountainSOL.org.