Silverthorne Elementary program combines STEM and outdoor education



This fall, students at Silverthorne Elementary cycle as part of the school’s outdoor education program.
Louise Wacaser / Sommet School District

The Silverthorne Elementary School Outdoor Education Program is a way for students to learn more about science while engaging in the many outdoor resources that Summit County has to offer.

Principal Louise Wacaser said the program started as a non-traditional version of physical education classes with the goal of exposing all children in Kindergarten to Grade 5 to the county’s outdoor activities, all the more that many students do not have the resources to access them. Students engage in activities such as biking, ice skating, hiking, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, swimming, sledding and more.

“It gives them the opportunity to be outdoors, learn new skills and enjoy Summit County in school,” Wacaser said of the outdoor education program. “Our children are very passionate about it. They’ve developed some great skills around it, like working together (and) problem-solving, and I always love that they get to try new things that they’ve never had the chance to try before.

Tyler Bunnelle, the school’s physical education teacher, was instrumental in creating the program. He said he started hearing from kids that they don’t spend a lot of time outdoors and felt a duty to help them discover what Summit County has to offer. It all started by taking the students to nearby ponds in the winter to skate.

Summit School District spokesperson Andrea Ridder said in an email that this year students are studying the forces of movement through biking and experimenting with Hot Wheels tracks to find out what impacts movement. . Students began to design and build a pump track behind the school this year.

“Pedaling is usually our force of movement with a bike,” Bunnelle said. “In this case, we’re trying to harness that gravity (and) harness that momentum by pushing and pulling our bike on those rollers and berms and keeping that momentum and even increasing that momentum over time. “

On Thursday, September 30, the school will host its annual Bear Strong Bike Fest for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The event will start at 9 a.m. with a ribbon cutting to unveil the pumping track, and it will both serve as a fundraiser for the outdoor education program. as well as a chance to show what the students are learning. The school is currently raising funds to build an indoor ropes course and climbing wall in the school gymnasium.

“This is a culminating event for our Bike and Forces in Motion unit where we hope to unveil our dirt bike / pump track that the kids designed and created by harnessing gravity to keep the momentum going around. this track, ”Ridder said in an email.

This fall, students at Silverthorne Elementary cycle as part of the school’s outdoor education program.
Louise Wacaser / Sommet School District

There was no bike festival last year and this year’s event is still a bit small compared to what it was before, but district staff said they were happy to ‘organize the event.

The outdoor education program’s curriculum is based on Colorado academic standards, which means that every aspect is linked to an educational component. The school runs on a three-week cycle on Wednesdays where third, fourth or fifth graders will participate in an outdoor activity in the morning and afternoon, with kindergarten, first or fifth graders. second year do the same.

Students then return to the Discovery Lab to learn more about the activity in which they participated. cross-country skiing.

“This year we’re coming in strong with really good focus and basically we’re studying the forces of movement in our STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lab, which is then connected to the bike,” Bunnelle said. “With this pumping track, we’re focusing on those forces of movement and building what these kids designed.”

The program is also integrated into Silverthorne Elementary’s bilingual curriculum, so Bunnelle and Spanish-speaking physical education teacher Alejandro Aznar participate in weekly outdoor activities.

Bunnelle said the pump track is still a work in progress, so it has the potential to become a multi-year project where kids can learn about the science of the pump track while having fun at the same time. He said, from his experience, that all children are doing it too.

The school has also partnered with Keystone Science School this year to provide an additional instructor for the program.

“The idea was to have someone to facilitate and support outdoor education for part of the day and support the after school program for the other part of the day, so we basically have does a full time job on two parts. on-time jobs, ”said Dave Miller, spokesperson for Keystone Science School. “It was kind of a no brainer for us to get involved and see what kind of funding we could find to support the program. … This is a huge opportunity for Silverthorne Elementary School just to really capitalize on our backyard.

Students from Silverthorne Elementary pose for a photo with bicycles they use as part of the school’s outdoor education program.
Louise Wacaser / Sommet School District


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