By Guest Blogger Erica Brown, Muddy Sneakers Communications Manager
Muddy Sneakers is a North Carolina-based nonprofit that has been transforming 5th grade science education in public schools for 15 years. The organization provides year-long partnerships that utilize local outdoor classrooms where students can experience real-life, practical applications for their classroom science lessons.
As a result of Muddy Sneakers, students form deep connections to nature, gain confidence in their science learning, improve critical thinking skills, and become more aware of their role in creating a more sustainable world.
Don’t take our word for it, though.
Each year, NC State University researchers measure the impact of Muddy Sneakers programming. The most recent report shows some truly exceptional results:
75% increase in learning about nature
50% increase in expressed critical thinking skills
100% increase in expressed science knowledge
100% increase in overall expressed level of interest in science
>200% increase in expressed science confidence
Students are also touting the benefits. A number of student quotes over the course of the last year indicate students appreciate the opportunity to learn in nature’s classroom.
“I like [Muddy Sneakers] because I can be outside and breathe clean air and I can think better.”
“I like being outside, not inside, and doing things instead of sitting and never getting up.”
“It helps you make memories. You don’t have to just watch TV or play on your console, you can go outside and explore. And I made new friends. I made 3 more friends this year.”
Not only are students thriving as a result of Muddy Sneakers partnerships, but teachers are also reaping the benefits.
In a time when many teachers report feeling overwhelmed by lack of resources and increased responsibilities, partner schools are praising this program for the support the organization brings into the classroom.
One teacher told us, “Muddy Sneakers has been a great help to me as I teach science. I love going outside for science lessons. This program has made me confident in doing that. It has built my confidence in teaching the standards. The kids benefit in so many ways – academically, socially, emotionally – I have seen this year after year. I love to see the kid who struggles in the classroom shine during an expedition.”
Here are just a few ways Muddy Sneakers is positively impacting teachers in the classroom:
All aspects of programming are facilitated by the organization’s Wilderness First Aid and Child and Adult CPF-certified Field Instructors, allowing teachers to participate alongside their students. This programming includes:
6 hands-on, in-person outdoor expeditions aligned to NC Essential Science Standards
2 live Skype a Sneaker virtual learning sessions
End-of-Grade test review
Annual program impact evaluation
Partners receive Muddy Sneakers Classroom Curriculum, a supplemental science curriculum and resource collection that guides teachers in facilitating Muddy Sneakers-style experiential learning in the classroom and on the schoolyard.
Muddy Sneakers provides partners with support for their school’s STEM events and activities.
Teachers receive job-embedded coaching in science, as well as safe outdoor instruction.
The experiential learning aspect of this non-profit is making it easier for teachers to ensure students retain knowledge. During an end-of-year reflection, one teacher told us, “Students don’t realize they’re learning because they’re having fun, and I think they learn more.”
Such impressive results and benefits surely come with a significant price tag, right?
Here’s where Muddy Sneakers’ 501(c)(3) nonprofit structure really comes into play: Muddy Sneakers raises 75% of all programming fees.
Private dollars are being invested in public education by donors, foundations, and philanthropists who understand the value of this program’s year-long experiential outdoor science education partnership.
For a growing number of NC elementary schools, Muddy Sneakers is becoming an embedded part of the science curriculum and a recognized outdoor education experience that serves as a capstone for children completing their elementary years.
If you want Muddy Sneakers in your school, please email email@example.com to get the ball rolling!
If you’d like to bring Muddy Sneakers to more students in your community, please consider making a donation online at muddysneakers.org.