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Students take control of their learning with Venture Outdoors at Environmental Charter School

My name is Alex Catozella and for the past half year I have been lucky enough to work with Venture Outdoors in a variety of outdoor instructor settings. With 8 years of experience working with children, youth development is one thing I am very passionate about. As an Ithaca college graduate with degrees in psychology and outdoor adventure leadership, I have a variety of technical and interpersonal skills required for being a good instructor. 

It starts with Discovery at E-day

One of my favorite programs to lead is the Extended Day Program at Environmental Charter School, otherwise known as E-Day. This afterschool program hosts students in third and fourth grade.

The focus is simple, get students outside, host creative activities, and bolster students’ knowledge of the outdoors. 

Students teach each other

Last week, I brought my camera to work to take photos of the students playing outdoors. There were a number of students that were interested in this. Not only did they lend a hand, they took over! Ava, Mira, Audrey and Zoe (seen above) really enjoyed this opportunity. 

This students took turns balancing across a downed tree over the creek while the others took photos. Mira, who had used a similar camera, helped the others learn the ropes.

This gave me an opportunity to step back. The peer-to-peer learning that occurs in E-Day always impresses me, there are always students like Mira who are happy to step up and teach their friends something new.

Ava found some tree roots that she determined would make for a nice background. Perched on those roots, she helped orchestrate the best photo of the day.

What started out as a regular hiking day turned into a mini-lesson on how to spot good backgrounds, nature photography basics and, overall, a fun photoshoot in the woods with friends. Hands on time trying activities is important in sparking new interests within students. Perhaps, an opportunity to try a DSLR (fancy) camera in nature could lead to a lifelong interest in nature photography. It’s sure to build friendships!

Venture Outdoors youth programs are possible thanks to LANXESS supporting STEM learning in Pittsburgh.

Samone Riddle

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