Science Inquiry in the Outdoor Classroom

Instructor Name: 
Rick Hugo
Course Description: 


Image of forest trail with man kneeling to look closely at moss along the trail. The image is overlayed with various icons created through the Virtual Field Environment (VFE) tour software.

Your course project will be to create a Virtual Field Environment (VFE) which will be used by K-12 classroom teachers and community educators to "visit" local field sites with their students. You can find a list of our VFEs here. Our challenge is to take a VFE beyond the typical virtual tour and create a rich, engaging learning environment that facilitates student-centered inquiry. You must also strive to engage learners from different cultural backgrounds and with different learning challenges. This will require you to take a deep dive into inquiry, critical thinking, and educational equity. Together, we will push the boundaries of online education.

Our community partners include Clean Rivers Education and Forests Forever, Inc. Each term the class will work on 2-4 different field sites for these partners, with each project team focusing on one site. Your field site may be a park or natural area within Portland Metro, or Hopkins Demonstration Forest near Oregon City. Creating a VFE involves a combination of on-site field exploration and remote media work using web-based software. Each student can choose to do field work, remote media work, or a combinnation of the two.

Field team members will explore their designated sites to acquire photos, videos, and audio clips that capture the local ecology. Each field team will be responsible for scheduling and conducting their field visits. Students are responsible for their own transportation. Remote team members will curate and edit the field imagery captured by the field teams, or produce supplementary media to accompany the VFE. 

All students will meet together on Mondays to discuss topics related to science inquiry and pedagogy, and to incorporate these concepts into a student-centered virtual environment.  

K-12 field trip opportunities: Our community partners will facilitate K-12 field trips that will give you the opportunity to work directly with young learners. During these trips, our educational approach is based on following student curiosity rather than leading prepared presentations. No science background is required for these trips. The primary skill you will gain is the art of communicating through dialogue. You will also learn some basic outdoor skills, some local ecology, and the realities of our public education system. K-12 field trips are optional for all students. If you choose to participate in a K-12 field trip, you must commit to the full time frame of the event, including a morning planning meeting and post-trip debrief.

You are encouraged to contact the instructor before the course begins to discuss course activities and responsibilities.