MCCALL, Idaho — Navigating this school year during a pandemic has been difficult for parents, students, and teachers, but the University of Idaho's Outdoor Science School (MOSS) is working to make things easier.
After their K-12 science programs that host students for week-long camps were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they pivoted their focus to working with the McCall school district to provide students with a safe outdoor learning opportunity.
“We have around 50 students a day come to MOSS in ten student pods and we take them out into the field and teach them outdoor education and science education all day long until the bus comes and gets them,” said Beth Kochevar, MOSS K-12 program coordinator.
The program is taught by graduate students at MOSS and hosts kids on the days they are not in school for in-person learning.
“I like MOSS because since the coronavirus we don’t get to do a lot of fun things anymore, and I’m glad it’s open so we can have a lot of fun with different grades,” said Maddy, a MOSS student.
"We are providing a place for them so that family members and caregivers can be getting back into the workforce," said Karla Eitel, McCall Outdoor Science School (MOSS) Director. "There are a lot of people's jobs that have to be done outside of the home and they need a safe place for their students to be.“
The positive response they have received from the community has been reassuring.
"We are hearing from students that it is fun, first of all, so I think that is a big plus," said Kochevar. "They are looking at animal adaptations that they might be learning in their science classes at school and being able to see that in real life out in the state park which I think is pretty neat.”
The students are able to use the skills and concepts they learn in school and apply those to an outdoor real-world setting.
"One of the parents said she was wearing a pair of earrings and her kid who is in first grade said, 'Hey that’s a hexagon like a plate snowflake and I know that because we were looking at snowflakes out in the field and that is the shape of snowflakes,' so those little things are really fun to hear like applying their learning to a greater context,” said Kochevar.
For Maddy, she said that she looks forward to MOSS every time.
"Just being out in nature all day, and learning new things," said Maddy.
The program is tuition-based, to apply or for more information click here. MOSS has grants and scholarships for students who want to join the program.