Positive Tomorrows focuses on learning outside the classroom
With matching blue shirts and smiles, 26 kids beelined into the Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma City.
The sound of hyper and happy third-, fourth- and fifth-graders reverberated off the walls, as the students inhaled earth-themed cookies and lime-flavored punch within a matter of minutes.
"How fun is this?" asked Rachel Durham, Positive Tomorrows development officer.
On Tuesday, the students of Positive Tomorrows, Oklahoma City’s private school for homeless children, attended a reception and celebration of their photography in nature this year.
“I love the idea of having the cameras because it really does slow them down,” said third- and fourth-grade teacher Shelly Fryer.
The students spent the semester learning how to work a digital camera. Parks in Focus, an organization that teaches youth from underserved areas, provided the digital cameras and the lessons.
Parks in Focus emphasizes the importance of getting kids into nature, especially those who typically aren’t exposed to life outside of the city. With the help of this organization, the students have traveled to the Myriad Gardens, Arcadia Lake and Martin Park Nature Center to take pictures this year.
“So many of our kids are urban, and they stay urban,” Fryer said.
For the last trip of the school year, Positive Tomorrows collaborated with the Nature Conservancy to arrange a trip to the conservancy’s Oka’ Yanahli Preserve. Pictures the students took throughout the semester were on display in a gallery at the conservancy until a reception Tuesday, where students got to take their photos home, along with a goody bag and a full belly.
“Our students…they move around so much. They’re not in one place for very long. They don’t have those things that they can hold on to,” Durham said. “They all walked out of here today with things they can hold on to.”
Some of the students at Positive Tomorrows also come from environments that lack tranquility and consistency, she said.
“We try to do a lot of experiences that will be calming for them,” Fryer said. “This environment was so different from where they come from.”
Katie Hawk, director of communications for the conservancy, traveled with the students on the two-hour bus ride to and from the Blue River. She grew close to many of the students along the way. She said she loved watching them explore nature for the first time, throwing rocks and putting flowers in their hair.
“The best part was getting to see kids be kids,” Hawk said.
Positive Tomorrows is a nonprofit organization that focuses not only on helping students, but also on helping parents. In addition to educating students, they teach life and social skills an
d help families find housing, employment and transportation. By working with parents, Positive Tomorrows assures that the teaching they do in school continues once students get home, Durham said.
“How do you pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you don’t have any shoes to begin with?” Durham asked.