Stories from the Field

Teacher Spotlight: Kim Kearns

Combined Shape Copy Created with Sketch.

I’ve taught for sixteen years…and I have always wanted to experience something like NatureBridge.” For many students, the chance to experience nature and environmental education at our national parks is a unique opportunity they didn’t know existed before coming to NatureBridge. For Forks Middle School sixth grade science teacher Kim Kearns, bringing a class to NatureBridge represents the realization of a long-held dream.

Last fall, Kim’s students participated in Forks Middle School’s first ever on-campus trip to NatureBridge Olympic. While the school had previously participated in learning experiences with NatureBridge educators, those lessons had taken place on school grounds, rather than within Olympic National Park. But for Kim, there was always the urge to bring her students to the park itself so that they could be immersed in the full NatureBridge experience. “I just fell in love with Lake Crescent the first time I saw it,” Kim recalls. “I was determined to get my kids out here.”

As far as I'm concerned, our NatureBridge trip was one of the best things I've done in my entire career.
Kim Kearns, Forks Middle School science teacher

“NatureBridge went above and beyond to make sure we had what we needed” for the students’ first time on campus, Kim notes. From providing bilingual educators to offering flexibility in scheduling or adapting activities to having rain gear and coats available for students to borrow, NatureBridge staff attended to every detail in order to ensure the group’s needs were met. Just as important as warm clothing or snacks was the financial support, Kim emphasizes, remarking that NatureBridge’s scholarship program made the experience possible for her students. “We receive a scholarship to come and I don’t take that lightly. That is a huge, huge blessing.” All the effort and support and attentiveness made the experience incredibly memorable—for the teachers as well as the students. “I don’t know who had more fun, me or the kids!” Kim says.

What NatureBridge provides is an opportunity for the kids who are not able to be successful in the traditional classroom setting to thrive and be successful.
Kim Kearns, Forks Middle School science teacher

Forks Middle School’s initial on-campus, outdoor immersive experience at NatureBridge was an unqualified success, Kim notes. Feedback from parents and guardians has been overwhelmingly positive. She’s observed growth and development in many of her students, including individuals who may struggle in a traditional classroom setting. “For a lot of our kids that struggle academically and behaviorally, it was a chance for them to shine,” she says. “The NatureBridge educators are phenomenally trained… There was a lot of laughing and playing and learning. The whole thing was fun and empowered me to bring more outdoor education experiences into my other science units!”

At NatureBridge, Kim’s students had the opportunity to utilize scientific equipment that they hadn’t yet encountered in their classroom curriculum. They were able to incorporate games and play into their learning—Kim points out that she herself came away with some new games and techniques she plans to incorporate into her teaching. “We built a lot of schema and background knowledge,” Kim remarks, noting how the experiences at NatureBridge have introduced her students to some scientific concepts they’ll encounter in more depth later in the school year. Most importantly, the students built relationships and created memories with one another and with their teachers. “It gave the students the chance to see their teachers in a different light, too,” Kim says. “You can’t help but build relationships. That’s just a fundamental part of NatureBridge! I made some connections with some kids that I know if we’d stayed in the classroom we would not have been able to make.”

Kim loves NatureBridge and encourages other educators to bring their students to campus. She advises: "I highly recommend that you do whatever it takes to bring your kids to experience NatureBridge. It is a magical place where science is experienced surrounded by nature, kids are invited to learn in new ways and lives are changed. Give it a try…you will not regret it!"

Photos courtesy of Kim Kearns

Check out these other