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Bruce: Five, four, three, two, one. Welcome to another episode of Whitetail Rendezvous. We’re traveling to Iowa today, and we’re chatting with Matt Erlandson. He’s an educator, he hosts Educators Outdoors. And when he’s not teaching kids in school, he’s out hunting with his wife and his kids. Matt, welcome to the show.
Matt: Thank you, Bruce. Thanks for having me on here, it’s great to be here.
Bruce: Hey, let’s talk about kids. Let’s just start right out there because in the warm-up you were sharing some really neat stories about what you’re doing with your science class, so let’s just jump right back into that conversation.
Matt: Yeah. I’m a big nerd. I love science, and I love the outdoors, especially in…so I love to see kids get involved in the outdoors. And even though we live in farmland here in Iowa, you’d think a lot of kids are outdoors, there’s a lot of things kids don’t experience on their own outside. And there’s things that they don’t see. So one of the things we’re doing in class right now with my students is the past two years, and this is the third year we’ve done it is we’ve created some nature trails on our school property because we have a nice little stream that runs through there with some woods. And we’ve had deer, turkey, gophers, lots of different birds. We’ve had even beavers there, lots of different animals that these kids just, they don’t see very often even though it’s all around them.
So we started to create these nature trails where kids were planning how these trails were going to go through the woods and which direction they were going to take. And I had kids creating informational signs, and doing some research on signs, and some of the animals, and the wildlife in that habitat, and creating these signs. They went above and beyond my expectations. They created QR codes that went along with the signs that people could scan them with their smartphones and get more information about it. And I still don’t know how to do that after having kids do it for three years now. I still don’t even know how to do it myself. But I had kids taking on manager roles where they would call businesses, get donations, they would go in present to the elementary schools, take elementary schools on tours of our nature trails.
So it was really neat to see kids get excited about being outside, excited about sharing with other kids and sharing it with our community. And just taking on…these are eighth-graders, and they’re doing things like calling and talking to adults, they’re making materials lists, and asking for donations. And these are things that I think stretch kids nowadays. They can’t just text them, they have to talk to them face-to-face or on the phone with someone. And kids nowadays they don’t get that interaction. And so I like seeing them grow and what kind of ideas they come up with. Some of my most struggling students in class really thrive and excel when we do this project and we work outside. And that’s neat to see.
Because not every kid is a paper, pencil, sit in a classroom type kid. I think as educators we’ve lost that. We’ve lost that not all these kids are going to go to college, not all of them are just going to want to read a book or write something in that aspect of learning. And there’s other ways to learn. So that’s where I go with this project at the end of each year. We spent about a month or a month and a half on it. So it’s really quite rewarding, I think, for myself to see how the kids grow. [inaudible 00:03:50] they feel a sense of accomplishment of, “I did that. I made that. I hauled 15 wheel barrow loads of wood chips today.” And they get excited about that.
Bruce: What you think the biggest barrier is to getting kids outdoors?