Take Me Outside day lets students learn differently

An Eye on Education by School District 51.

Submitted by School District 51 trustees

Just imagine, a cloudy October morning at the Kettle River Park Recreation area where three buses bringing 120 students from Big White, Beaverdell and West Boundary, 13 SD51 staff along with 45 student teachers from West Kootenay Rural Teacher Education Program (WKRTEP), and myself, one school trustee, all arrive together at 10:30 in the morning. This is how our days began and what an amazing experience it was.

The second annual ‘Take Me Outside’ day gave students and teachers an opportunity to learn in a different way within a familiar context. On Oct. 19, we came together for ‘place based’ learning in local communities. Families might ask us, “Why would you spend a cold, wet fall day outside?” Experts in the field of education describe this learning as an immersive learning experience that “places students in local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities and experiences, and uses these as a foundation for the study of language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and other subjects across the curriculum.”

The Kettle River Park Recreation area offers the ideal setting for outdoor learning in the Boundary. A partnership with BC Parks makes it possible to bring together schools, community experts and student teachers for a collaborative learning experience in late October. The day unfolded with a gathering on the playground where classes had the opportunity to connect briefly with the student teachers. Each of the six classes moved through two stations before lunch and two stations after lunch.

Primary Stations:

1) forest nature walk using senses in search of seasonal changes

2) building natural winter birdfeeders with seeds, bagels and peanut butter

3) exploration play

4) drumming with Indigenous Support worker Ginette Wheeler

Intermediate Stations:

1) poetry reciting in nature

2) nature walk led by Darcee O’Hearn (children’s author and forester)

3) Indigenous drumming with Metis Elder Joan Holmes, Carrie and girls

4) art leaf printing & natural birdfeeders

On the same day in Greenwood, teachers Jennifer Eaton and Dustin Stolen, along with a child and youth counsellor, and a community activist from the Rails to Trails Society, welcomed 14 student teachers from WKRTEP to join the 26 students from Greenwood Elementary School for a day of learning some of the rich history, and present amenities, of Canada’s smallest city.

Partners of students worked with a student teacher to complete a scavenger hunt using their iPads and an app called “Actionbound.” After cycling into the downtown core, these groups set off on a walking mission to find answers to questions, take photographic evidence, or complete certain tasks. Answers to the questions were found in City Hall, the museum, the post office and along Main Street. The second iPad given to each group, was used to photograph small figurines brought by students, on their adventure, so that they could write a cooperative story about their day, later in the classroom.

Everyone biked to Lion’s Park for a bag lunch, and a chance to play on the equipment, before attempting to finish the scavenger hunt. Connecting with the city works crew beforehand, made it much more comfortable as they brought picnic tables to the site and made sure the washrooms were still open for their convenience. Dodging raindrops, the entire crew finished their day by cycling back along the Trans Canada trail to the school to learn how many points were collected by correctly answering questions and visiting the required locations.

The outdoor experiences in both communities could easily have taken place in a classroom setting. However, when teachers venture outside the classroom setting, it builds connections with community and makes learning more engaging for students. Not only is this day inspiring for new teachers, but it also gives our students the opportunity to be ambassadors and share their ideas about how this generation of students learns best.

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