Ecole Victoria School received a 2020-21 Programs of Excellence grant from SPSF to create their project, “Taking Learning Outdoors”. Through the grant, they have been able to support all classroom teachers with some learning and the materials to engage in authentic learning and exploration outside their classrooms. All teachers have received some professional development on how to take almost any lesson outside. They have outfitted each classroom teacher with a Go-Kit that includes the following: tarp, ropes, first aid kit, hand sanitizer, sit upon cushion, magnifying glasses, foldable saw, a compass, and foldable shovel.
As a result of the new space, there are several classrooms in which the teachers have fully engaged in regular outdoor learning, making excellent use of the materials in the go-packs and learning to adjust many lessons to an outdoor learning space. In those classrooms, there is much positivity from students and parents. Two of the classes (grade 3/4 and 6/7) go outside every single day – stopping only in the most frigid of weather. Several others are picking it up again as they head into spring with weekly or biweekly nature walks and lessons along the Meewasin. A significant benefit of this project is that the kits are not consumable and will be able to support outdoor learning and students for several years.
“I like being outside because the fresh air makes me feel alive.”
“I like going outside to learn in the fresh air and not staying in a crusty, dusty classroom all day.”
“Being outside feels good both mentally and physically”
Here is what the teachers had to say about the Outdoor Classroom experience:
“Our class has spent hours learning in the schoolyard and walking and carrying out real-world experiments along the paths and trails of our urban forest by the river. The support of the Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation has meant access to materials such as cord for fastening structures together and for learning different knots, tools such as a saw, a shovel and a fire-starter to help us not only stay comfortable and warm but also develop our Science knowledge, and a Michif-language plant identification guide to help us recognize the features of our natural world and to strengthen our ties with some of the First Peoples of this area. Our go-pack is a travelling classroom and toolkit! Thank you for providing a support that has enriched our learning so much this year.”
“This year I was elated to make changes to my teaching practice by taking my grade one students outdoors. We collectively implemented a weekly nature adventure where we take an hour to explore the outdoors of our local environment. It has been a vital foundation for the cultivation of engagement to learning and has helped build relationship amongst peers and the natural world. It has heightened their sense of achievement, empowerment, as well as improved self-confidence, wellbeing, and engagement for learning. I also noticed the experiences in nature helped decrease their anxiety and stress, develop responsibility and mindfulness, and increase their concentration. I strongly believe that the natural world should be a part of every child’s education. The child-nature connection is an essential part to the child’s holistic development, by maintaining strong health and wellness, and encouraging a lifelong curiosity for learning!”