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Curriculum Update

‘Mountain kids’ at eight schools explore local terrain

Plumas USD uses its own backyard for its “Outdoor Core” K12 curriculum
Fifteen outdoor field trip days are built into the academic year at Plumas USD school district.
Fifteen outdoor field trip days are built into the academic year at Plumas USD school district.

Plumas USD, a rural district tucked away in the rugged terrain of northeastern California, uses its own backyard for its “Outdoor Core” K12 curriculum.

The surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains, Plumas National Forest and Feather River watershed provide the backdrop for the program, which embraces Next Generation Science Standards.

Students can visit 13 privately preserved properties on the Feather River Land Trust to search for wildlife tracks or monitor river levels. Each of the district’s eight schools is within a 15-minute walk from one of the trust’s properties.

“Science is on display here in front of us all the time in very dramatic ways,” says Rob Wade, program coordinator for the district’s outdoor education curriculum who developed Outdoor Core.

Each grade covers a particular aspect of the natural surroundings—for instance, first-graders study insects, fifth-graders concentrate on regional birds and sixth-graders explore the local watershed.

At every level of the “mountain kid” experience—as the curriculum is nicknamed—students keep a journal of observations and data, such as the kind and number of trees and wildlife or insects at a particular location.

Fifteen outdoor field trip days are built into the academic year. “We want the kids to have a significant outdoor experience nearly every week of the school year,” says Wade. “We don’t want science regulated to the classroom alone.”