Mead Outdoor School Provides Non-Traditional Learning

By Kirsten Erickson and Todd Zeidler

K-8th Grade students in the Mead School District are thriving in the place-based learning that Mead Outdoor School (MOS) provides them at Camp Dart-Lo in north Spokane, Wash. This unique educational program is part of the district’s innovative, non-traditional offerings through Mead Learning Options.

At MOS, students attend classes outdoors two days per week, all school-year long, rain, sleet, snow or shine. This program focuses on project and place-based learning with emphasis on social studies and science. Parents provide instruction in reading, writing, math and support for science and social studies throughout the remaining three days each week at home.

One particular day in science, for example, the class studied water filtration. The teacher brought small groups of students down to the Little Spokane River so that they could collect and analyze water samples. Back at main camp, other students were in their social studies block giving speeches about the importance of clean water for salmon. Much like a traditional school, these students conduct research, cite sources, construct a five-paragraph essay, and present in front of the class, but the scenery and connection with nature is wildly different. The calming effect of being in nature also provides respite from cognitively-demanding academic tasks.

Interspersed between content blocks, students get to choose a “Connections Class” from a collection of interdisciplinary activities. These classes often focus on using the local environment as a context for learning. By studying the natural and cultural resources of their environment, students develop a sense of place and a deeper connection to their community. 

“Not every child learns in the traditional classroom setting, and we want to make sure every child is successful in whatever way they can be successful,” Director Tracy Taitch says. “The site is perfect with meadows, a forest, rock outcroppings, wetlands, and the Little Spokane River. And maybe most importantly, there is a community of students, staff, and families who care deeply about providing a rich outdoor learning experience for our children.” 

Interested in learning more about MOS or want to contribute to their mission? Visit or contact MOS Director Tracy Taitch directly at

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