There’s increasing emphasis on education beyond the classroom. Bethel schools are encouraging this desirable trend. Herewith, some low-cost local possibilities for classes, clubs, teams, families…

Our schools are fortunately situated. Out-of-class can be as simple as a walk in adjacent woodlands. Phys Ed isn’t just about teams and gyms; encouraging life-long activities is important. Bethel has good walking and biking routes; the Riverside Pathway now has exercise stations as well.

Outdoor learning takes many forms. Mahoosuc Land Trust’s Kirk Siegel points to the Valentine Farm, where “opportunities abound for students to discover and explore the habitats of birds, pollinators, and plants through events and self-guided learning trails.” A bit further out, the McCoy-Chapman Forest gives us a chance to appreciate riverine landscapes and the hillsides and fast-moving streams of the northern woods.

Skiers should know how their lifts are maintained, trails groomed, lodges managed. Learning opportunities; employment opportunities as well.

Farms, orchards, and tree farms are locally important (they support tourism as well). Many owners and operators are happy to explain and demonstrate. (Harvests need hands; visitors may be recruited.)

Students need to know about governmental Bethel as well. What do officials do? An explanatory tour of the Town Office would be good. And the real nitty-gritty: water, wastewater, stormwater, road repairs…

Science beyond the classroom? Skip Simmons, the Mineral and Gem Museum’s Director of Research, says: “It’s a fascinating combination of physics, chemistry, astronomy – all the sciences come together in geology. It’s challenging, but that’s what makes it fun.” The museum tells a lot about local economics and social history as well. Our area offers all sorts of chances for fieldwork: mines, road cuttings…

The past is all around us. Cemetery walks can be intriguing: what do the stones tell us?
The Bethel Historical Society’s museums tell interesting stories. Dr. Mason’s home can teach quite young people what it was like to live before electricity, running water, central heating, automobiles, etc. Older students may consider what it meant to be a doctor, postmaster, congressman, real estate developer, temperance campaigner… For those who decide to dig deeper, there’s the research library. Outdoors, walking tours of historic Bethel.

David R Jones works in classrooms, but also likes to get out of them.

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