Outdoor Classroom Day is loaded with activities

Sophie Kirkby, a USA Luge junior team member and Saranac Lake High School student, teaches Petrova Elementary School students how to luge Thursday at Outdoor Classroom Day. (Enterprise photo — Kevin Shea)

SARANAC LAKE — A downpour missed students who were freed from their walled confines in the pursuit of local knowledge and life lessons Thursday.

Petrova Elementary School participated in an event that, in the past, hundreds of schools and thousands of students have participated in, Outdoor Classroom Day.

One hundred and ten countries participate in the initiative, according to the Outdoor Classroom Day website. It’s a day where schools bring their students outside to learn. A report released in London in 2011 titled, “Sowing the Seeds: Reconnecting London’s Children with Nature,” found through surveys and studies that bringing kids outside to learn and play can be beneficial.

“Contact with nature can be seen as part of a ‘balanced diet’ of childhood experiences that promotes children’s healthy development, well-being and positive environmental attitudes and values,” according to the executive summary of the report.

Petrova Elementary School participated for the second time with the global and the fourth time in general — the school has an outdoor classroom day in Spring and Fall; the official event first started in London several years ago is only held in the Spring.

Kaiden Hill of the Tri-Lakes Humane Society presents Annabelle the chicken to a Petrova student. (Enterprise photo — Kevin Shea)

“I came across the site and thought, ‘What a cool idea,'” said Petrova teacher Temnit Muldowney, who first organized the event two years ago at the school.

Muldowney then reached out to local organizations and businesses and asked them to come for an hour-and-a-half and teach kids about what they do. In the past, the Dance Sanctuary, the State Police, the Wild Center, the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge, Paul Smith’s College and the Saranac Lake Fire Department have come and given outdoor presentations to students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

On Thursday afternoon, underneath a gray ceiling, six circles of students for each grade sat around the six local presenters: National Grid, North Country Life Flight, the Tri-Lakes Humane Society, One Foot Forward, Peaceful Child and the State Olympic Regional Development Authority. Every 15 minutes a siren sounded, and the students would shuffle to the next station.

“They get to get out of the classroom, but they’re still learning,” Muldowney said.

Kindergartners swooped their hands and focused on tempering their breath in the pursuit of mindfulness with Jen Tissot and Kara Munn from “Peaceful Child — Yoga, Mindfulness & More for Children,” an eight-week program run through the Earthshine Yoga Studio.

Petrova Elementary School Students participate in an exercise led by Jennifer Mott of One Foot Forward. (Enterprise photo — Kevin Shea)

Jason Bourgeois of National Grid stood before what he called a bucket truck, and explained his job and the importance of safety.

“I think safety is not pushed enough with our power infrastructure,” Bourgeois said. “The earlier we can teach them about safety the better.”

Bourgeois also explained to students how he became interested in electrical engineering and what led him down the path of becoming a lineman, a five-and-a-half journey, he explained to students.

Local athletes showed the children how to properly luge and what the sport consists of. Students gasped at how fast the sleds can go and then wondered aloud whether that is faster than a car speeding on the highway. Each student was then given an opportunity to try out the sleds, although they weren’t allowed to move them, only sit.

Derek Osborn of ORDA said the opportunity allowed kids to explore other avenues they could pursue. Muldowney said that in the past, students had gone on to explain to their parents what they had learned and then participate in those activities locally.

Annabelle the chicken and Lexi the dog were favorites of the children. Both had been found and rescued by the Tri-Lakes Humane Society, which informed students about what it is and when kids should contact them.

“I think it’s important that kids know we’re around, and if they see a lost animal, we can help them find their owner,” Kaiden Hill of the Tri-Lakes Humane Society said.

Jennifer Mott of One Foot Forward explained the importance of exercising and eating properly.

“It gets kids thinking about something other than electronics and video games,” Mott said.

Students walked, shouting names of healthy foods. When Mott blew a whistle the students ran and shouted the names of unhealthy foods. When she blew the whistle again, the children sprinted and shouted the most unhealthy foods they could think of. She told them before the exercise to notice how it became harder to shout the names of unhealthy foods the faster the kids ran.

Students eventually came around to the Life Flight organization, where they were informed of what to do if they are lost and in need of emergency help.