While the American childhood experience has changed dramatically in the last 35 years, the integrity of OBIS activities remains timeless. Free exploration in nature is no longer an integral component of the modern childhood. But the good news is, it takes very little to reestablish this relationship in a lasting, meaningful way. The research is consistent: integration of the outdoors in a child's experience, enhances learning, general health and attention.
OBIS Uses the Discovery Approach
In its essence, OBIS uses the engagement of nature and the action of mucking around with natural systems to create long-lasting conceptual understanding. By not requiring a huge investment of time or energy to get started, OBIS acts as an effective entry point. The lessons may be used independently, or sequenced to create a specific instructional strand, and/or support a long-term field research study.
As an established model of inquiry-based science, OBIS encourages discovery by the student and operates under the assumption that exploration and experience are the best means of learning. The outdoors becomes a laboratory where the OBIS activities provide the experiences from which children develop an understanding of basic ecological concepts.
Leading the Innovation
Educators need these tools now in order to engage young people in their immediate outdoor environments. As movements such as No Child Left Inside, Children & Nature Network gain momentum, OBIS will serve as an instrumental bridge between the formal classroom and the outdoors, while still bolstering effective exploration led by informal educators.
If we are to make intelligent decisions on factors that influence our environment, we must understand basic ecological relationships, also known as Eco Literacy. By learning more about the biological world around them, children can better relate to this complicated world and apply knowledge of localized ecological concepts to environmentally-related decisions they will be facing throughout their lives.
Words from Larry Malone, Co-Director of FOSS
The Co-directors of FOSS (Full Options Science Systems) began their careers developing the original folios of OBIS and their connection to their roots when they embraced integrating outdoor experiences within FOSS, 3rd edition, essentially making the schoolyard another resource to good instruction. While Larry's words were directed toward formal educators (in the Spring 2009 FOSS Newsletter) they should resinate for any educator working to reconnect children to the natural world.