Back to School: Worthington

District to enrich indoor studies with outdoor education

  • The Russell H. Conwell School on Huntington Road, pictured here in 2016. The school intends to hold several outdoor education programs this school year, Principal Gretchen Morse-Dobosz said. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • R.H. Conwell Elementary School Principal Gretchen Morse-Dobosz reads to students last year at the Worthington school. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Wednesday, August 23, 2017

WORTHINGTON — In its third year since separating from Gateway Regional School District, Worthington School District is turning its focus to outdoor education.

Several teachers for the district attended summer professional development programs, and some went to an outdoor education program in Vermont, said Gretchen Morse-Dobosz, principal at R.H. Conwell Elementary School.

“One of our goals this year is to really look at developing an outdoor education program and how we can use real-life, outdoor experiences to enrich the curriculum,” Morse-Dobosz said. “We want to have kids spending time outside and engaged in meaningful learning there.”

The school is located near extensive woods and trails, Morse-Dobosz said, so the goal is to get all classes to plan some lessons to take place outside.

No other new initiatives are planned for the year, Morse-Dobosz said, but existing practices will continue to be developed, as the district is fairly new.

“We’ve had to build from the ground up, so in the first two years we tried to really hit the ground running,” Morse-Dobosz said. “Now we’re continuing to build our policy, curriculum and tradition, and this year we’ll continue putting more of those pieces in place.”

Worthington began offering breakfast for students in the middle of last year, and that will continue this year, Morse-Dobosz said.

A mindfulness program was also started last year, Morse-Dobosz said. The program, called “MindUp,” will be more in-depth for all classrooms this school year.

The district also began a once-monthly early release for students to allow for professional development programs for teachers. Morse-Dobosz said that this year, that time will be spent on learning more about special education and instructing teachers on how to best teach students with learning disabilities.

Additionally, the school will welcome a new preschool paraprofessional and a music and physical education teacher this year, Morse-Dobosz said.

The school district continues to gain rather than lose students so far, Morse-Dobosz said. The preschool class is nearly full, which Morse-Dobosz called “a good problem to have.” There are currently 76 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.

“We’re trying to sharpen and fine-tune what we have in place this year,” Morse-Dobosz said. “We want to take a hard look at what we’re doing well and what we need to shift in our early years.”