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Teacher: Mike Kennedy and Chad Owen who teaches at Riverlawn Elementary in Fairlawn, VA. Mike Kennedy and Chad Owen can be contacted at

Name of Best Practice: 5th Grade Outdoor Education Hike

Rationale/Purpose of Event: To encourage students to enjoy the outside environment and experience new and different ways of being active so that they may lead healthy lifestyles. To also give students the confidence to try new and different ideas and realize that larger than normal tasks outside of their comfort level are possible to attain.

Suggested Grade Level: 5 - 12

Materials Needed: Depending on the size of your class, age of class, length of class time, distance covered, and how in depth your materials are it may vary. Our outdoor education hike includes the proper clothing for the time of year, a water bottle and enough food provided for each person to have a snack half way through and lunch at the end.

5th Grade Outdoor Education Hike

This is a field trip taken by our fifth grade classes once a year to hike an 8 mile leg of the New River Trail State Park.

The New River Trail State Park is a 57 mile linear park that was converted from an old Rail Road track that parallels the scenic and historic New River in the state of Virginia. It is a multi-use trail ideal for hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, camping, canoeing, and fishing. Part of the trail just happens to run through Pulaski County, our school district. You may have a park, trails, or similar type of greenway near your school. We normally take our hike in the fall, late October, on a part of the trail that is very scenic and appropriate (fairly flat) for our 5th graders.

We introduce this to our students as another way for them to be physically active in a way that they may not be familiar with. This is a chance for them to try something new, challenging, and fun. Along with securing all of our students permission slips to go on the field trip we also ask them to help provide food for our snack and cookout at the end of the hike. Four miles into the hike (half way), we take a half hour break where everyone gets a healthy snack (banana and a granola bar) and a bathroom break.

At the end of the 8 mile hike we have a hot dog cookout for lunch. So along with their permission slips we ask that each student provide one of the following items to be brought in the week before the field trip - a bunch of bananas (4 per class), a box of granola/cereal bars (4), a pkg of hot dogs (4), a bag of chips (4), a pkg of cookies (4), and drinks. Very early the morning of the hike we will deliver our truck with the grill, food and drinks to our end point waiting for us when we finish. We also drop off our bananas and bars at the half way point. We secure a ride back in to school to ride the bus with the students to our starting point. We will have also dropped off a bike at the start point so that one of us can ride the trail up and down the line of students checking on any needs (first aid etc...) this also gives us a chance to go ahead of the pack and get snacks ready at the half way point and start the grill at the end.

The pace is a very leisurely walk and talk with your friends, parents (chaperones), and teachers. One teacher leads the group and sets a normal pace where no one is allowed to pass the lead teacher. One teacher brings up the rear where no one is allowed to fall behind them, usually at a pace that doesn't push the stragglers to hard but enough to keep them moving. Again the bike goes back and forth keeping it all together.

We try to leave around 8:30 am, get to the trail around 9:00. Finish our 8 miles including snack break around 1:00 (straggling in between 1:00-1:30) have lunch, leave at 2:00 to get back in time for dismissal.

Riverlawn Hike riverlawn hike
riverlawn hike


Small classes may be able to make it a bike ride instead of a hike. Logistics of getting bikes to and from could be very challenging however.

Teaching Suggestions/Tips:

Classroom subjects could also be incorporated along with the hike such as Science - identifying plants, rocks, Math - measuring distances, steps, History - of the land, community, etc.

Safety: Make sure you have enough chaperones, walkie-talkies, cell phone for any emergencies. Medical first aid kit is also suggested.

Adaptations for Students with Disabilities:

Depending on the severity of the disability we have had disabled students meet us with one mile left in the hike to finish it with their classmates or simply just meet us at the end to join us for the cookout. Another possibility would to be to use a bike trailer depending on your and theirs accessibility.

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Posted on PEC: 11/14/2012 and has received 95 votes.

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