From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Katie Langford):
An outdoor science camp on the Grand Mesa that has served hundreds of local sixth-grade students will continue beyond its pilot phase, thanks to a $20,000 Great Outdoors Colorado grant.
The Outdoor Wilderness Lab, or O.W.L., is a science camp developed by Bookcliff Middle School teachers and Colorado Parks and Wildlife and finished a five-year pilot phase last week. Every year, a group of Bookcliff Middle School sixth-graders are selected to spend a week at O.W.L., to experience science and the outdoors by getting their hands dirty.
That could mean learning about water quality and fish populations by wading through creeks or natural ecosystems by hiking through the forest.
Bookcliff teacher and program organizer Greg Weckenbrock said the grant funds will help all 200 Bookcliff sixth-graders attend the camp next year. Currently, 45 students are selected to attend through a lottery system.
This year’s camp finished on Friday with a science fair displaying what the students learned throughout the week. Weckenbrock said for many students, it’s the first time they’ve spent a significant amount of time in the wilderness.
“Sometimes I can’t get them to sit still for a minute in my class, but out here they’re totally engaged,” he said. “They begin to take ownership of the camp and ownership of their education. We provide them an experience that they can hook what they’re learning on to, and if the learning is meaningful and authentic they’re going to hang onto it. That’s the whole goal.”
Weckenbrock said he was surprised to receive the grant.
“I was elated, because this has really in some ways been a labor of love,” he said. “I was shocked and extremely excited, and then immediately started thinking about next steps. It’s a tremendous success and there’s more work to be done.”
Weckenbrock and other O.W.L team members, including Bookcliff teacher Spencer Powell, want to expand the program to provide an outdoor science camp experience for every sixth-grade student in School District 51.
“We’re really proud of O.W.L. It’s a great program and we hope to expand it in the long term so every sixth-grader in the Grand Valley can experience it,” Powell said.