As we muddle through the current pandemic it’s important to remember we are living history. During these times of change, there are plenty of opportunities. At times they hit you in the face and in other instances, you have to seek them out. Since schools across the nation have suspended classes, kids were “going to school” at home before summer vacation started, and it appears that some schools will be continuing remotely in the fall. In this article, we’ll look at ways to use the range as a classroom.
In case you hadn’t thought about it, your kids have always been learning at home. You were likely your children’s first teacher.
In this post, I have some thoughts on how to make that trip educational.
School is Everywhere!
A child’s classroom extends well beyond school and home. In fact, all of us are constantly learning whether we realize it or not. This is what makes 2020 such a fascinating time. Parents across the country have been forced into a situation where they have to be intentional about their children’s education. Of course, this new normal has its ups and downs. I find myself struggling to find the balance between helping my kids with their school assignments and taking care of my own work responsibilities. I’m sure you feel the polarity as well. Sometimes we all need a break so here are some ways to get out of the house for some fun while also using the range as a classroom.
Natural Curiosity Trumps All
For our family taking a break almost always happens outside, and sometimes we go to the range. The funny part about it is that we often learn more during our “breaks” than we do while we are actually focused on official learning. Life experiences lead to genuine questions that the asker genuinely wants to find answers to. This process is learning on steroids.
Simply put, many educational experts believe that when a learner generates a question, a place marker is created in the brain for the corresponding answer to anchor. As a result, the lesson is retained. So, providing opportunities and experiences that naturally generate questions and answers helps build a solid educational foundation.
Below are some suggestions as to how you can incorporate different school subjects into your trips to the range. You can easily adapt the ideas I share to the age and ability level of your shooter. Don’t be afraid to do a quick google search for your kids’ subject and grade level educational objectives. For example, you might search “Ohio fourth grade math objectives.” It won’t take much to cut through the teacherese and plan an activity that is age-appropriate for your kids.
In my opinion, science is all about asking questions, making predictions, and then figuring out a process to answer the questions.
Here are a couple of examples that we have worked through recently:
I spent some time testing a Springfield SAINT AR15 Pistol. It has an exposed gas block. We all wondered how hot it got, so we loaded up 10 mags, shot them at a rate of 1 round per second, and measured the temperature between each mag.
We also looked at how barrel length impacts projectile velocity. We put the same ammunition past a chronograph in a 16”, 12.5” and 9.6” barrel.
In both of these situations, we were able to collect data, make predictions, and find answers to questions.
The possibilities are literally endless.
Math Can Make More Sense On the Range
When you use the range as a classroom, you can transform math concepts like the ones below into real-life understanding.
In our temperature experiment, we looked for number patterns. When we compared velocity we had the opportunity to look at ratios. Again the possibilities are endless and at all levels.
My oldest is working on mean, median, mode, and absolute deviation. Using the range as a classroom works perfectly for this, whether we are measuring velocity, shooting scores, times, or group size.
The simple act of scoring a target uses basic math facts. You shoot and your child shoots. Show them how to score by scorning your target and then help them to score their own.
Do you have 50 rounds and 5 magazines for the Ruger 10/22? How many rounds will you shoot out of each magazine? Again, basic math facts.
This is a natural fit with shooting, isn’t it? Shooting helps develop a discipline that fits naturally with social studies.
And then there is the study of our government. I’ll never forget when my youngest came home from school to share that the teacher talked about the Bill of Rights and discussed the First Amendment and then the Third Amendment. It’s our job to present the reality of civics instead of the opinions of a public servant.
One caution here. In my opinion, we want to develop critical thinkers and not bots that automatically follow in our footsteps just because.
Again, this seems just too easy. If you have younger kids, you might start by reading Julie Golob’s book, “Toys, Tools, Guns, and Rules.” For older kids, you might look for biographies of our founding fathers, non-fiction texts that explore the firearms of different eras, or fictional books that explore the use of firearms. “Johhny Tremain” immediately comes to mind.
Don’t skimp on the writing side. Simply keeping a journal of range activities is a substantial writing task, as is summarizing what they learned from their range-related science and math activities.
It all fits together…
One of the things you might notice is that there can be a lot of overlap between the lessons we can learn related to visiting the range. This is a good thing. When subject areas overlap it helps us to learn more efficiently. Our brain naturally develops in a web of ideas that interconnect. Helping to structure activities to support that web of learning makes the learning that much easier and much more relevant.
Beyond the Range
My own personal bias leads this post toward shooting-related learning. I have to admit that the same can apply to any activity. For some, heading to the range may not be an option based on local shelter in place “suggestions.” A walk in the woods or around the neighborhood can generate suitable questions and conversations that can lead to authentic learning experiences.
As difficult as current times maybe, opportunities are everywhere for those that are willing to seek them. Investing time into your child’s education and into your relationship is likely to be a worthwhile investment.
Next time you head to the range consider how you can supplement your child’s education, using the range as a classroom.