Mohican outdoor school turns 50
Mohican School in the Out-of-Doors was begun in 1961 to provide outdoor environmental education to school children. Over 250,000 students in grades 4-8 have attended this program in the last 50 years.
I am a former principal of Parkside School in Westlake which still sends students to Mohican. I was also a member of Mohican School's board of directors for 25 years and served as executive director from 2005 to 2010.
I would like to reflect on the impact of this program on participants in helping to better understand and appreciate our natural surroundings. Students spend class time hiking through the woods learning about geology, water studies, trees, animals, plants, astronomy and flowers.
They learn to read a compass and use a GPS to get around a compass course. They get to handle rabbits, snakes, turtles, goats, and see live raptors in class. Today most kids are tied to the TV, computer, video games, iPhones and other gadgets. At the outdoor school, students are not allowed to bring any electronic devices. They think they will die but find that playing ping pong, checkers, chess, and other "old fashioned" games is fun.
They learn to make their beds, clean up their area and be responsible for their belongings. Each student is assigned a job like setting the table before a meal, recycling, sweeping and emptying trash. For most students this is the first time being away for more than a sleepover and they learn that they can "make it." They get to see their school teachers at meals, taking hikes with the classes, participating in outdoor activities and wearing their outdoor clothes.
The school is a private, non-profit organization that struggles each year to meet its budget. With educational funding being reduced, the slumping economy, concerns of parents about children being away from home, and less concern about environmental issues, it gets more difficult each year.
However, when I see former students, they always talk about Mohican. They remember their dorm, a staff member, the weather and the great experiences they had.
In order to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Mohican is holding a dinner on June 18 at the school's lodge near Mansfield. Also, donations and volunteers are always welcome. For more information, visitwww.mohicanoutdoorschool.org. To attend the dinner, please call the school at 419-938-6671.