‘Outdoor Learning in KIBSD’ by Anthony White

It’s Saturday, weather is turning out fairly decent, for Kodiak at least. You ask your kids, “Want to go for a hike?” They reply with a resounding yes. You all get dressed for the weather, put on your sturdy hiking shoes, grab your pack, some water, a few snacks and you head out the door.

You arrive at the head of the South End Trail on Near Island, grab your stuff and start your outdoor adventure. Shortly after you start on the trail, you notice what looks like a bright yellow box suspended from a tree. As you near closer you realize it’s a yellow Pelican Case gently tied to a tree, with the words “Spotbox” written on the front. Hanging from the bottom is a piece of paper with the heading “You’ve Found a Birds of Kodiak Spotbox!” and a list of all the educational items contained within.

“What is that,” asks your oldest. You shrug. “Let’s open it!”

Inside you find a variety of (mostly) tech-free activities. Pamphlets from the US Department of Fish and Game helps you identify which season various types of birds are most prevalent in the Kodiak Wildlife Refuge and the Kodiak Archipelago. A set of custom-designed bird identification cards that allows users to scan QR codes to hear specific bird calls. To recognize local Alutiiq culture, you find a set of information cards generated from content found on the Alutiiq Museum and Archeological Repository website. In addition, there is a set of bird-themed coloring pages filled with Alutiiq words and traditions.    You also spot a signup brochure for the Wings Over Alaska birding program to encourage you to continue your adventure in bird identification. Last, you find a folder containing a flyer and blank bird identification passports. The flyer indicates you can win a limited-edition sticker designed by a local high school student if you draw and submit a sketch of your favorite Kodiak bird.

Lots of learning opportunities in one yellow box.

What is the Spotbox Project?

The Spotbox Project started in the summer of 2020. In the midst of a pandemic, students needed an opportunity to not only get outside but to continue learning. The SpotBox Project is intended to encourage families to get outside, stay active, and keep learning. This project was the originally created and developed by Damon Hargraves (Federal Programs Administrator) and John Malloy (Educational Technologist). The project was handed over to Anthony White (Migrant Education/KHS) at the start of the school year. Teachers, businesses, organizations, students, and field experts across the district collaborate together to create new boxes for students and adults of all ages to learn and enjoy.

Check out our map of current Spotboxes deployed around the island.

The Future of the Spotbox Project

As education progresses into the information age we must recognize the importance of collaboration and community. Our collective web of information contains a wealth of open educational resources, primary source documents, culturally responsive lessons, government entities, and much, much more. We envision the Spotbox Project becoming a state-wide initiative. Regardless of where people live, or travel, localized outdoor educational opportunities can be made available to everyone. These opportunities can mix both paper-based and electronic resources.  If you are interested in collaborating on this project or wish to learn more, please contact Anthony White (anthony.white@kibsd.org).