Anatomy of a Course: Outdoor U

Launch’s new Black History course explores, studies and highlights significant moments in Black history by sharing stories, music, the arts and culture.
By Savannah Waszczuk

As hiking, camping and exploring continue to grow in popularity, there’s no better time to educate students on the great outdoors. Enter Launch’s Outdoor U class, a new middle school elective that invites students to lace up their hiking boots and head outside! “One of my favorite things about this class is that while students take it virtually, they’re not required to be in front of their screens the entire time,” says Launch teacher Kindal Plank. “It’s our first semester offering it, and we’re getting great feedback already—the kids are loving it!”

Take a Hike!
There’s a lot more to hiking than just strapping on a backpack, and this assignment sends that point home. “Students learn about everything from what to take on a hike to various safety aspects, as well as the importance of informing others of their plans,” Kindal says. The kids also plan their own trail-topped adventure during this unit: they are instructed to choose a Missouri hike from a reputable website, then plan out their journey as if they’re actually going on the hike with friends. “They make lists of what they’re packing, where they’re meeting—everything,” Kindal says.

Safe & Secure Shelter
We’ve all watched the popular show Survivor, but have you ever really thought about what you’d do if you had to learn how to survive outdoors on your own? In this assignment, students learn about the seven different varieties of survival shelters, then build their own real miniature shelter with items they find outside.

Identification Process
After learning about the various types of trees that grow in Missouri, students are instructed to go outside and identify all of the types of trees they see. “We use the Missouri Conservation Field Guide for tree identification, as well as for birds,” Kindal says.

Write it Down!
While students are regularly outside completing assignments for this class, they’re also invited to step into the open air and observe nature for a weekly journal entry. “A lot of times we will tie their week’s entry to something they’re learning about in class,” Kindal says. “For example, when they learned about shelters, they went on a search to observe animal shelters.”

Let’s Get Local
While this course focuses on the great outdoors, many assignments and units focus on Missouri geography and conservation. In addition to studying Missouri trails and landscapes, students also learn about hunting and fishing that takes place in the Show Me State.