As if the news that spending time outside is good for your kids’ eyesight wasn’t enough incentive to push them outdoors, it now appears that thinking outside the (X)box, and good teachers, make your kids better at science, too.

From this story on
…He went on to a successful career as a principal and is retiring this summer, but would no doubt be happy to know that today’s science teachers seem to be having an impact on kids, too, according to science achievement-test data released yesterday.

The data, from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, a test given periodically to a national sample of students, shows that overall scores are rising a little and that the racial achievement gap is narrowing. Still, there is a long way to go: just one in three 8th-graders scored at the proficient level, a tiny increase from the last time the test was administered two years ago.

According to the story, the data shows students who don’t engage in hands-on science in and out of the classroom do much worse than those who do. One could argue this is self-evident, but the Time story’s author, Andrew Rotherham, goes on to argue that getting kids outside is a crucial part of that equation, and he gives a number of excellent examples of the types of programs and activities that are so important to triggering a child’s curiosity and interest. He specifically mentions educational programs from several hunting- and fishing-based conservation groups as an excellent resource for students, parents, teachers and policy makers.

From the story: There are also plenty of conservation organizations that offer hands-on support to teachers. For instance, Trout Unlimited — I’m a life member, so you know where my heart is – offers a “Trout in the Classroom” curriculum unit in which students raise and release fish and in the process learn about the temperature, water quality, and stream conditions that cold-water fish like trout need to survive. Ducks Unlimited and other conservation groups offer similar support for teachers.

The rest of the story has some excellent advice for parents and teachers and is well worth the read. I’m sure that many of you, by way of your love for hunting and fishing, do all you can to foster in your children an interest in the natural world, but the fact is, you are a minority. Most children do not get that extremely important early exposure to nature that many of us were lucky enough to receive, which makes programs such as these even more important. Do your children participate in any outdoors school or organization-based natural science programs?