Union County High School’s Outdoorsman’s English Class Spotlighted at State Conference


Union County High School’s Outdoorman’s English IV Class is taking the traditional classroom outdoors and bringing about positive outcomes for students; with educators across the state taking note.

According to UCPS spokesperson Malinda Beauchamp on Friday, February 26th, UCPS instructor David Drennan and students Lilly Trent and Gage Nally presented both a keynote and a breakout session at the Kentucky Council for English Teachers Conference in Lexington Kentucky. The session’s focus was on “Creating a Culture of Learning from Student Interest” and was so popular at the conference that the room was crowded with teachers seated on the floor and the walls lined with a standing room only crowd.

This conference was an additional opportunity for a couple of UCHS Outdoorsman’s English students to develop their leadership skills. “The students represented Union County so well,” said Drennan. “They were very professional in their speech and conduct.” From the large crowd in attendance, Drennan had several inquiries from teachers looking to incorporate similar practices in their classrooms.

According to Drennan, Outdoorsman’s English is “way more than the typical English class where students diagram sentences and write essays. We are developing a culture of student literacy and leadership. By tapping in to the power of student interest and showing them how leadership ties into real life, our students are taking ownership and accepting the responsibility.”

Outdoorsmen English has two main components. First, the outdoorsy theme of the class appeals to student interest and engages a group of kids in English Class who may not typically have a strong interest in English. The students meet in the great outdoors 3 or 4 days per week. The literature that students read and their assigned essays are based on outdoors activities such as hunting, fishing, and hiking.

Next, Drennan incorporates leadership lessons into every class. His goal is to give students leadership opportunities to grow and connect with the text in real life. Every student is required to complete a leadership project for the class and Drennan provides frequent group leadership project opportunities. In December, students donated more than 1,100 books to Morganfield Elementary students and Seniors who were former MES Wildcats delivered the books to the school. Students also collected 250 milk jugs and recycled them into a project to encourage reading at Uniontown Elementary by building an igloo in the UES library that can hold five UES readers at a time. UCHS Outdoorsman’s English students will be going to MES on Wednesday, March 2nd to celebrate Read Across America with younger students.

As a supplement to the leadership portion of his class, Drennan often brings in guest speakers for students. These speakers talk about real life and how students can use their literacy and leadership skills to make a difference. There are four guest speakers from area businesses lined up for the upcoming months and also a specific session for students to have authentic interview opportunities with local business leaders.

Only in its first year, Outdoorsman’s English is being tracked closely by Drennan to determine effectiveness. Results are positive, currently showing an increase of 25% in College Readiness in Reading and a 12% increase in College Readiness in English.

UCHS Principal Evan Jackson is pleased with the progress he has seen with Outdoorsman’s English. “Mr. Drennan achieves the unexpected,” said Jackson. “Students who struggle elsewhere seem to thrive in his classroom. He teaches students much more than English. The academic content is merely the tool he uses to teach students how to succeed in life as leaders.”

For those wanting to see and learn more about the Outdoorsman’s English IV class taught by Mr. Drennan, he has developed a website full of information to chronicle the class’s journey this school year. You can visit the website at www.studentgrowthky.com/david

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(Courtesy of UCPS: Photos include Drennan, Trent, and Nally at the conference on Friday, the igloo built at UES, and the book drive at MES)

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