September 17, 2003 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Ron Newcomer shows students how to use a hand-held GPS unit.

Good behavior and commitment to success earn students at Lexington’s Martin Luther King Jr. Academy for Excellence educational field trips around Kentucky to enhance their learning experiences.

Most recently, a group of nine got to attend a two-day nature camp at the North Central 4-H Camp in Carlisle. Professionals from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture facilitated hands-on classes about soil, water and timber. For many of the students it was their first trip to the great outdoors.

“It’s really a great opportunity to have youngsters here from urban areas who’ve never had the opportunity to come out and visit nature,” said Doug McLaren, UK Extension forest specialist. “They bring a whole new perspective of what the environment is all about.”

McLaren said the camp is a way for the students to learn about the environment and its resources, as well as to learn where their water comes from and how timber is used.
Sometimes traditional classrooms are not the ideal setting to learn about nature and the environment. Students who get the chance to really experience nature first-hand have the ability to learn more than they would from a book, said Phoenix Anderson, a 15-year-old freshman at MLK.

“It’s educational and it has enlightened me to things that surround me day-to-day,” she said. “I’m not really a nature person; I usually stay inside, but when you get out here and learn about things around you it’s pretty cool.”

Anderson and her classmates learned to operate hand-held Global Positioning System units to determine their geographical location on Earth. They learned to operate hand-held weather units to record temperature and humidity levels as they hiked around the grounds. They also learned to identify common trees and know where those trees grow and why.

Ron Newcomer teaches algebra, science and video production at MLK and also coordinates the off-campus trips.

“I think these kinds of things help them understand that the school system, their community, their teachers and parents care about them academically as well as personally,” he said. “This trip probably gives them something they have never experienced before in their life and lets them apply academic principles in a real hands-on environment.”

Newcomer believes all people learn better when they are given a problem and allowed to solve it on their own terms in a way that is meaningful to them. Other trips have included nature centers, water treatment facilities and state parks.

McLaren thinks the children probably will take home much more than the leaves they collect on their two-day adventure. They will take home a new perspective on what soil, water, timber and the forest are all about.

“You’ll see kids have a love for discovering things they didn’t know before,” Newcomer added. “When they get to see a woodland frog in the fall coming out of the lake that will never go back, and they capture that frog and hold it in their hand – that life that beats in the palm of their hand for just a few seconds thrills them to no end.”


Writer: Aimee D. Heald 859-257-4736, ext. 267
Contact: Carol Hanley 859-257-5961