Because outdoor science programs deserve quality tools crafted specifically for them.
We want to improve the quality of outdoor science instruction. We’re doing this by supporting field instructors in helping students develop a relationship with nature and to become excited about learning. Field instructors are often attracted to the job because they like kids, science, and nature, and they want to help kids connect with nature through science. The outdoors is rich with opportunities for science learning experiences that can’t happen in a classroom. With specific guidance from field instructors in outdoor settings, students can learn to think like scientists while “falling in love” with the natural world in the process. Facilitating this well is an art and a science. Just like for an athlete or a musician (or a scientist!), improving one’s game is a challenge that can keep a thoughtful instructor learning and growing their entire career. When a learning community culture is encouraged in an outdoor science program, it’s a great setting for staff to develop deep instructional skills. Unfortunately, few resources have been created specifically for the needs of these passionate educators and program leaders. That’s why BEETLES exists.
BEETLES also exists because the time is right. Environmental education has often been treated as enrichment, a (pleasant) distraction from the core learning of language arts and math. We at BEETLES think outdoor science programs have a tremendous but largely under-recognized and under-appreciated capacity to play a pivotal role in science education. But in order for this to happen, we’ve got to “up our game.” That’s one reason why BEETLES is focused on providing resources to help outdoor science programs improve the quality of their programs. Environmental literacy is more important than ever, and is finally being recognized as integral to successfully achieving the ambitious goals of the Framework for K-12 Science Education, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and Common Core State Standards. State environmental literacy plans, like the one we just helped write in California, are popping up in nearly every state, and they all specifically recognize the contribution outdoor science programs can make to advance statewide science goals. We think (and we’re not alone in this) that now is the time for environmental education to have a seat at the table, instead of surviving off the scraps.