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Commentary: National Monument makes kids hungry for learning

By Brady Bennon

To the Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on August 5, 2014 2:21PM

I became a teacher eight years ago and quickly learned that the key to good teaching is engagement – hooking kids in and getting them curious.

It’s not easy to do in the classroom. The best way to get kids hungry for learning is to give them real world experiences.

My family visited the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument recently as part of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s family camp. This is my second time visiting OMSI’s Hancock Field Station, in the center of the Clarno unit of the monument – first as a teacher, and now as a parent.

Each visit has offered real-world experiences that made kids hungry for learning. Kids learn what fossils are and how they are made. They see firsthand how erosion and volcanic eruptions have shaped the land. On our recent weekend, we hiked to the Hancock tree, and our sons marveled at an entire tree trunk buried in ash, petrified, and unearthed by erosion. Whenever young people are in awe, there is opportunity for learning.

Visits to the Monument also bring tourism money to local towns. After OMSI camp, we traveled to other parts of the Monument. We saw three other OMSI families doing the same.

Public lands bring jobs. Research from Headwaters Economies shows that since 1970, in Oregon’s rural, non-metro counties, job growth has been four times as high in counties with more federally protected public land than in counties with less public land.

In March, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to eliminate the president’s ability to create national monuments under the Antiquities Act. The Senate is also considering it. This would be a travesty diminishing opportunities for our children to grow their enthusiasm for learning. No textbook can replace these places and experiences.

Brady Bennon has been a high school social studies teacher, instructional coach, and varsity soccer coach in Oregon since 2006.


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