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Connecting kids to their community through an on-going service learning project
This award-winning program worked with Keene, NH schools to integrate public lands into school curriculums. Over 1,600 local students were engaged in service learning projects through the Rachel Marshall Outdoor Learning Laboratory (RMOLL) over a period of nine years. Since its inception, students were involved in 48 projects, accounting for 4,575 RMOLL educational days. The program began with the Rachel Marshall Outdoor Learning Laboratory – a two-and-a-half-acre preserve along the Ashuelot River – but was expanded to make use of Keene’s 2,000 acres of public lands.
RMOLL projects helped students explore their cultural and ecological heritage, make decisions about managing public land, and build an ethic of care. In effect, RMOLL students became the stewards of Keene’s public lands. The Rachel Marshall Outdoor Learning Laboratory was an Antioch New England Institute, Center for Place-based Education Program.
The Rachel Marshall Outdoor Learning Laboratory was started to build an ethic of care for the lands of the Ashuelot River Park, the City of Keene, and the Monadnock Region. The program provided places for visitors to gather and learn about their cultural and ecological heritage so they can make responsible environmental decisions for future generations.
RMOLL program honors include:
- The Council for the Advancement of Support of Education (CASE) Grand Gold Medal Award for outstanding University to K-12 School Partnership.
- The NH Governor’s Volunteer Service Award for an Outstanding Service Program.
- The Association for University Women Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Excellence in Education.
The Program’s History
The Rachel Marshall Outdoor Learning Lab was established by the Friends of the Ashuelot River Park and the Rachel Marshall Trust Fund in 1996 on a 2.5 acre piece of land across the river from the park entrance. In the fall of 2000, all project partners supported the expansion of RMOLL’s mission and scope from the 2.5 acre learning lab to include all public lands in the area. RMOLL now serves as an educational resource for all Keene Public School teachers.
Antioch New England Institute (ANEI) partnered with the Friends of Ashuelot River Park to develop educational programming for the students of the Keene School District. As a result, RMOLL now provides students with the opportunity to become stewards of the public land and to have voice in their community through an experiential learning experience.
RMOLL also provided ongoing support to teachers. The project director met with each interested teacher to do an RMOLL project and helped to arrange a project plan, transportation to field sites, project materials, and educational support. Antioch New England Graduate students often worked with the classroom teachers in instruction and curriculum planning. At the end of the project RMOLL ANEI team members hosted a celebration for the students to honor their accomplishments.
Seasonal programs were offered by RMOLL and the Horatio Colony Preserve for Keene’s Parks and Recreation Department and the Horatio Colony Museum. Keene High School students, Antioch New England Graduate students, Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) store managers, and local naturalists conducted the programs for the public. Programs were announced in the local newspapers and Parks and Recreation Program Brochure. Winter programs included: astronomy, snowshoeing, tracking, and animal adaptations. Spring programs included: vernal pool exploration, reading the forested landscape, photography, trail maintenance, Quest Fest, and Earth Day activities.