7th Grade Outdoor School
Two-Day Experience Affords Students 30 Hours of Service-Learning Credit
Seventh grade students at Allegany County Public Schools have the opportunity each year to attend a two-day outdoor school experience at Rocky Gap State Park. While there, students participate in four hands-on learning activities taught by the Alice Ferguson Foundation and the Department of Natural Resources staff. Additionally, attendance at outdoor school will afford participants 30 service-learning hours towards the 75 required for high school graduation.
“ACPS is excited to resume the 7th Grade outdoor school program in conjunction with the Alice Ferguson Foundation and Rocky Gap State Park,” said Dr. Eric Van Slyke, ACPS Secondary Science and STEM Supervisor. “It has been a number of years since having in-person field trips. Getting students outdoors and in touch with nature is vital to our Environmental Literacy program.” Dr. Van Slyke continued, “Thank you to the agencies involved, the schools, the transportation department who have made this possible."
The activities offered at Rocky Gap include “Alien Invaders”, where students assess exotic invasive species to identify and quantify the percentage of these species present in national parks using a dichotomous key for plant identification; “Don’t Get Sedimental”, where students determine a stream habitat rating based on abiotic, biotic, and cultural factors; “Water Canaries”, an activity that allows students to assess benthic macroinvertebrates by collecting them from streams with nets, classifying and identifying them, and ultimately learning to interpret early warning signs of decreasing water quality; and “Watershed Watchdogs”, where students determine a water quality index of a stream using physical and chemical parameters.
“Talking Trash” is an activity that teaches students about sources of trash and how it moves into waterways. They will evaluate their data to determine ways to address the trash problem through personal action. A follow-up to the Talking Trash program will be held at home schools after their outdoor school experiences conclude. Science teachers also conduct pre- and post-outdoor school experiences for their students.