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Outdoor learning: Professional development for teachers

By James Davis, Education Program Manager

June 2017

Our wonderful Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore and I had the privilege of facilitating six environmental education professional development workshops for teachers during the month of May.  The workshops took place in Fort St. John, Victoria and Surrey and covered topics such as building a routine to take your class outside regularly, connections to the new BC curriculum and conducting a risk/benefit assessment for an outdoor learning space.

Enjoying the woods. Photo by Nikko Snow.

The highlight of the workshops for many teachers was the time they got to spend outside. We put teachers in the role of students and led them through nature scavenger hunts, games of food chain tag, and other nature connection activities including “Sit Spot,” which allowed participants to sit quietly and observe (something many teachers commented that they rarely have time to do).

I really enjoyed these opportunities to get out from behind my computer and meet teachers face-to-face.  I was able to hear about the challenges that they face in trying to take their students outside during class time. Many of them also shared inspiring stories about the ways that they are helping young learners get outdoors and develop relationships with their natural surroundings.

We got great feedback from the teachers, with a vast majority saying they felt better equipped and more confident to take their students outside than they did before the workshop.

Looking forward to the 2017/18 school year, we are hoping to offer more of these Pro-D workshops and to collaborate with local teachers’ unions to make these opportunities available. Our goal is the work with these unions to institutionalize environmental education training for teachers, with the vision of having they types of Pro-D workshops offered to every teacher in the province by 2020.

If you are interested in having us visit your school district to facilitate Pro-D workshops this coming school year, please get in touch with me at james@sierraclub.bc.ca.

In the meantime, enjoy your summer and don’t forget to get outside!

Want to help us do more? We rely on donations to keep our programs free, accessible, and inclusive year after year. Please donate today to ensure they can stay this way.

Feature image by Navarana Smith.

Connections in the Peace

As I stood on the shores of the Peace River in Northern BC this past spring, I was reminded of the incredible diversity of land and water we hold here in beautiful BC.

Our children and future generations deserve to experience all of this amazing biodiversity. They deserve to know where they live and develop a connection to the place they call home. If we plan to nourish that connection then we must plan to protect it for the future. Children need opportunities to learn how they are part of this place so they don’t feel like they are separate from the rest of life that surrounds them.

As Sierra Club BC’s Environmental Educator for the past 3 years, my job has been to facilitate an opportunity for children to connect with nature in their home place.

Kirsten with Peace Valley farmer Arlene Boon.

This year I have had the pleasure of traveling to Fort St John and visiting the Peace River Valley during the fall and springtime.  My favourite experience was standing beside the Peace River and taking in all the scenery, then speaking with students about how they connect with the Peace and the surrounding area in the community of Hudson’s Hope.

Students shared with me their concerns about flooding and what will happen over the next few years to their home if the Site C dam goes ahead. Students and teachers spoke of the changes they have seen already within their community due to forest fires, the pine beetle infestation and the building of hydro dams. This has all caused changes to the river and the natural landscape.

Life along the river is getting tougher for these folks. Each day brings more challenges for holding onto the farms and forests, and of course their homes along the river. Learn how you can get involved in our campaign to stop the Site C dam and protect the Peace River Valley.

As I spent more time in Hudson’s Hope I soon realized that these students have a close connection to this place. They told me stories about their favourite experiences in nature: fishing, hunting, camping and snowmobiling in the area. Some kids travel quite a long distance to school each day and many spend their time helping out on their families’ farms along the river.

Kids in the Peace River Valley. Photo by Don Hoffmann.

One Grade 5/6 class took me to see a local forest they love to visit. This is a place they said, where “you can always see lots of deer.” Indeed, we saw lots of deer making an appearance in the forest and foraging for food after a long winter. I took walks with students to the toboggan hill near their school each day and we used that space to explore the variety of plants and animals by doing a fun and interactive nature scavenger hunt. I believe one of their favourite activities was rolling down the hill after our closing circle.

One thing I have become very aware of, no matter where you are in BC, is that finding as many earthworms as you can after a rain is truly a favourite activity!

The Peace River Valley holds a dear place in my heart. I send them lots of positive thoughts as the future of the river, the wildlife and the people are at stake with decisions to be made about the Site C dam. Help kids in the Peace protect the places they love – tell Trudeau to halt construction on the Site C dam.

Sierra Club BC’s K-8 environmental education programs delivered in classrooms across the province are all developed to meet BC curriculum requirements and connect kids with nature in their own community. I encourage you to check out our upcoming programs and keep connected to receive updates regarding fall registrations. This has been a very rewarding year for the education team with the hire of our new program manager and the success of our Climate and Place pilot program delivered in the CRD. I look forward to connecting with all of you in the fall. Enjoy a wonderful and relaxing summer in the great outdoors.

Donate today to help us reach more children next year!

Climate and Place: The Future is Here

By Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore

May 2017

This spring I have been busy with the development and facilitation of an exciting new pilot program. “Climate and Place: The Future is Here” is designed for middle school students in Grades 6-8.  In this workshop, students collaborate together to learn more about climate change solutions. It is based on Sierra Club BC’s vision document The Future is Here.

The Climate and Place workshop creates opportunities for students to critically observe and evaluate the behavioural patterns of individuals and communities in their home place, within the urgent context of climate change. Coast Salish teachings are entwined throughout the program using stories and cultural examples to facilitate discussion about taking care of the earth for future generations.

Ideas for reconnecting with nature from the Climate and Place program.

In this workshop students are provided an opportunity to voice their opinion on climate change in an open and respectful environment. They apply their knowledge and experience with their community to solutions that can address climate change impacts. They brainstorm ideas such as riding a bike or walking to school instead of getting a ride in a car, establishing and supporting recycling and composting programs in their school, and spending more time outside in nature.

My hope is that the Climate and Place program inspires and advocates for change, where necessary, in our school communities and local neighbourhoods.  During the experiential community walk, students make observations as they walk through their local neighbourhood and look critically at what they see happening in the context of climate change. Has anyone in the neighbourhood installed solar panels? Is there a recycling and composting program taking place? Are people growing their own food in backyards and community gardens?

The “Turtle Island” activity engages students in problem solving and encourages them to come up with possible solutions to major causes of climate change, such as old-growth logging and the fossil fuel industry. In one recent class, students stood on a tarp representing Turtle Island as climate problems were presented. They began to experience uncomfortable circumstances as the tarp became smaller and smaller. They had to stand increasingly closer and closer to one another. As students suggested their ideas for possible solutions, the tarp became larger and the people standing on the tarp became more comfortable with their surroundings.

“As we reduce our use of fossil fuels, reconnect children to nature and enforce sustainable harvesting practices in our forestry industry, we all here on Turtle Island will have a chance to continue to be healthy and happy.” – Grade 7 student

Students also really enjoyed the canoe journey activity. This is a facilitated discussion to help guide students to voice their opinion and make statements about how climate change is personally impacting their lifestyle and behavioral choices in their home and community.

“I learned today how we all play a role in creating an environment that will be sustainable through our choices such as how we travel to school each day or if we use plastic bags at the grocery store.” – Grade 7 student

“I never knew that spending time outside was so valuable and important in the fight against climate change and nature deficit in children in our society today.” – Grade 8 student

Overall, this program has actually been a roller coaster ride with lots of ups and downs. It can be challenging to get this age group to speak up and share how they feel about the environment within the urgent context of climate change. Some students feel that it doesn’t matter—that their opinions don’t count.

“No one ever listens to how we feel we should be taking care of the planet.”  – Grade 6 student

I also discovered how much it varies between communities in terms of how children are mentored to show concern for the environment.

“How can my school be more involved in reducing the impacts of climate change?” – Grade 6 student

“Why do we have a pack in/pack out rule for garbage at our school?” – Grade 8 student

Kirsten with students.

Every school is doing something. The biggest challenge I see within middle schools is how they can purposefully make the connection between their actions and the expectations they have for their students, nature and the climate. For some students, this was the first time they had ever heard about the reality of how climate change will impact our lives here in BC.

The reality is that climate change is happening and students need to become aware of their role and how they can play a part in creating solutions. They are the future and they must be given the opportunity to be mentored in protecting nature and spending time outside so they can learn how their actions will directly impact their future lives.

 

Resource List:

Sierra Club BC “The Future is Here” Document

  1. Stabilize our climate, by leaving fossil fuels in the ground, reducing our emissions and increasing the price on carbon.
  2. 2. Defend intact nature to preserve biodiversity and natural carbon banks, and protect the ecosystem services on which human economies and health depend.
  3. Rapidly transition to an equitable post-carbon economy that leaves no one behind.

Climate Change activities you can do with your students

Communities taking the lead on solar energy:

T’Sou-ke First Nation

Bear Lake Cree

 

 

Kids Need Nature, Nature Needs Kids

By James Davis, Education Program Manager

May 2017

I feel fortunate and grateful that I was able to attend the annual Children & Nature Network International Conference & Summit in Vancouver last month.  The conference was attended by over 900 delegates from Canada, the United States, and more than 20 other countries.

This year marked the first time that the conference has taken place outside of the U.S.  It was held on the unceded territories of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.  Here are some of my highlights from the gathering:

At the opening reception on Tuesday evening I was blown away by Ta’Kaiya Blaney of Tla’Amin First Nation, who received standing ovations after both her inspiring speech and her musical performance.

The Wednesday morning keynote address by Gil Penalosa from 8 80 Cities acknowledged that change is hard and that doing more of the same is easier, but helped us to imagine what our cities would be like if we designed them with both an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old in mind.

Photo by Adina Appenheimer.

Lauraleigh Paul, First Nations Ecology Programmer at Stanley Park Ecology Society, reminded us that if we want to connect our spirits to the spirit of the land, we need to turn to the traditional knowledge keepers who have been in relationship with the land for generations.

I was honoured to meet Joe Akerman and Hwiemtun (Fred Roland) and learn about the Xwaaqw’um Project, a Coast Salish cultural learning hub that they are leading on Saltspring Island.  Joe invited us to move beyond being allies to our First Nations brothers and sisters and to become accomplices.

On Thursday I attended a valuable workshop led by staff from Youth Outside and Education Outside, two fantastic organizations in the Bay Area, about their programs that create opportunities in nature for underrepresented communities.

This focus on diversity, equity and inclusion continued on Friday during the “Grappling with Bias for More Inclusive Youth Programs” workshop that I took part in, which was facilitated by Ava and Aparna from The Avarna Group.  Their website provides a plethora of rich resources.

Keynote speaker Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, said some kind words about our recently retired Executive Director, Bob Peart, and his contribution to the movement in Canada.  He also confronted the enormity of the challenge that we face, admitting that the child and nature movement will not be able to reach everyone, but affirmed that each child that we reach will count.

There were many other inspiring individuals that I had the honour of connecting with over the course of the conference.  I left feeling reinvigorated and even more committed to doing what I can to help children and youth across the province spend more time outside, building a relationship with their natural surroundings!

 

Feature image by Robin Thorneycroft.

Earth Day Challenge: Get outside and PLAY!

By Sierra Club BC Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore

April 5, 2017

Earth Day is coming up on April 22. What is your school community doing to celebrate during Earth Week?

Sunshine and Smiles. Photo by Terri Boizard.

Earth Week is a time to celebrate and join together to work toward sustaining and building healthy and vibrant communities. This year I invite every class to take part in a challenge to get outside and PLAY!  Play is an essential part to a child’s development and play-based learning leads to greater social, emotional and academic success. Play is how children explore the world around them. According to research conducted by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, “intentional play-based learning enables children to investigate, ask questions, solve problems, and engage in critical thinking.”

It is important to provide your students with the opportunity go outside and allow them to engage in self-directed free play in nature.

How do you make this happen? It’s easy!

Instead of taking them to the built playground structure on the school ground, take your students to a place where the natural landscape and vegetation is accessible to them. This could mean an open grassy field or, if you’re lucky, a nearby forest. Believe it or not, once the kids are immersed in a natural space they will automatically start to explore, climb, run and ask questions and make observations about what they are seeing on their own.

On your first visit to this natural space, I suggest taking out with you basic supplies to get you started. These could include items such as magnify glasses, small trowels, paper and pencils for nature sketching, or items for a nature scavenger hunt (find scavenger hunt ideas here!) These items would be used to help kids get started in exploring nature. By the second or third visit you should no longer be needing any additional tools to get kids engaged.

The kids will start to immerse themselves in free play and will rely more on nature to provide the tools for interaction and investigation. Ideally, if you are able to continue with taking your kids outside on a regular basis (once or twice a week) for self-directed play, you will start to observe some changes in behavior.

Mason by the Sooke seashore. Photo by Jess Alford.

A deep nature connection activity I highly suggest is a “sit spot.” A sit spot provides time for students to find their own place in nature, sit quietly, and take time to observe and reflect on what is happening around them. Sit spots are an ideal way to start off your nature play time each time you go outside as a class. Observing seasonal changes throughout the year at their sit spot will enable your students to develop a deeper nature connection to a place.  Starting this week, in celebration of Earth Day, take your students outside and enable them to play outside in nature.

Looking for a special event to be a part of as a school community during Earth Week?

EarthPLAY for Earth Day is an Earth Day Canada initiative to get schools more involved in taking their students outside. Earth Day Canada is inviting schools across the country to get outside and play during the week leading up to Earth Day on April 22. They suggest taking an extended recess or hosting a whole day of popup adventure play at your school.

This is an amazing opportunity to connect kids with nature through outdoor, active, self-directed and unstructured play. Encourage kids to get outside no matter the weather or how much nature your school site offers. This is a valuable opportunity for children to create their own playground through outdoor play. Register your school and get tips and a tool kit for an EarthPLAY event at your school.

 

Earth Day community events happening around BC on April 22:

VICTORIA: Celebrate Community and Sustainability at the 6th Annual Creatively United Sustainability Showcase at the Royal BC Museum

VICTORIA: Bioblitz of Garry Oak Ecosystems

SURREY: Party for the Planet

NORTH VANCOUVER: Celebrate Earth Day at Mahon Park!

KELOWNA: Celebrate Biodiversity at the Kelowna Museum

 

Feature image by K. Zolotas.

Take your adventures outside this Spring Break!

By Sierra Club BC Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore

March 7 2017

Looking to get the kids outdoors and into nature over the spring break? Interested in joining a group of like-minded kids and families? Check out my recommendations for keeping nature connected and learning something new this spring break.

Getting outside over the spring break is something that we all look forward to doing. The sounds and smells of spring are in the air and we must embrace all the new discoveries that arrive this time of year in nature. The kids are anxious to explore, to play outdoor games and to experience life beyond the four walls of a classroom. Depending where you live, this might be your first opportunity since last summer to explore the beach or go for a hike in the forest without deep snow.

Having grown up in Ontario, I have always associated this time of year with Maple Season and the sound of water melting. The days are getting longer and the temperatures are warming up. The sounds of the spring peepers can be heard in the distance. Animals and birds are moving about and making more of an appearance. I grew up visiting my local conservation parks, learning how to make maple syrup and taking part in an interpretive guided hike program. I loved spending my time splashing in puddles after the thaw of a long winter. It is such a magical time of year for kids to be able to run, play and splash around in puddles and get excited about the tree buds, blossoms and birds. We can all hope after a long winter that spring is finally in the air!

Students at Quadra Elementary. Photo by Craig Janzen.

Regional parks in your own community are amazing places for the entire family to explore and learn something new. They are a great spot to experience and learn about all the changes that are taking place in nature.  During March break, many parks host events that will get you out to learn about wildlife such as bees, birds and beavers. The variety of family-friendly drop-in events as well as guided interpretive hikes are sure to be a hit for all ages.

If you are looking for a nature program for the kids during March break, why not check out what’s happening in regional parks in the Capital Regional District or Metro Vancouver?

If you live or are planning to visit Tofino over the March break and are looking for an incredible opportunity for your child to become immersed into nature each day with like-minded kids, you definitely should check out Tofino Nature Kids. They are facilitating a spring break camp at the Tofino Botanical Gardens for ages 5-9 years old which will include a variety of activities such as fire making, games, songs and stories. Kids will build on their nature skills and connect through play while taking part in this program with Tofino Nature Kids.

There are also great programs happening in the Central Okanagan and the Kootenays!

Wherever you find yourself this spring break with the kids, remember to take a moment to reflect and embrace this wonderful awakening in nature. I encourage you to take your adventures outside and see and experience something new.

Happy exploring!

Feature image by Craig Janzen.

“10 years back, 10 years forward”: Children, families and nature

Saturday February 25, 2017
8:30 AM – 5:00 PM PST

Royal Roads University
Hatley Castle Drawing Room
2005 Sooke Rd. Victoria BC

In February 2007, The Kesho Trust, Mountain Equipment Co-op, the University of Victoria and Royal Roads University hosted a community conference called a Dialogue on Children, Families and Nature. We were interested in the implications of the then-current book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder and invited its author Richard Louv to attend. This gathering, as well as a similar gatherings in 2009 and 2011, led to the formation of the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada and other critical initiatives related to getting children and families outside to experience and enjoy the many benefits of connecting with nature.

The Kesho Trust, Sierra Club of BC and Royal Roads University is hosting a ten-year anniversary meeting where we can all:

  • Hear about the outcomes of the work initiated or growing from those earlier gatherings;
  • Discuss where we believe we should be moving towards in the next ten years and how we might plan to move toward this desired future;
  • Celebrate!

The day will begin with coffee and mingling; our keynote speaker will be author Richard Louv, who will join us via the internet from his home in San Diego, CA. In addition, the Lieutenant Governor of BC, the Honourable Judy Guichon, will be attendng and she will offer her thoughts as a person who has a long-standing interest in this movement.

There will be a series of three panel presentations, each with 3-4 invited speakers. The panels will cover the domains of nature-based programs in schools (K-12), urban issues in child/nature connection, and the role of NGOs and governmental agencies. Panelists will briefly speak on where they see this movement has been and where it needs to go over the next decade.

Lunch will be provided, along with coffee and snacks.

Following the panel presentations, we will have a facilitated process which will allow you to think about what your desired futures might be in terms of the theme of the conference, and then to engage in a process of imagining the steps needed to get to that desired future.

Following the event, an open no-host bar will take place in the beautiful drawing room of Hatley Castle at Royal Roads University.

My favourite environmental children’s books

By Sierra Club BC Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore

February 2017

One of my favorite things to do with a class is to read them a story. I use stories as a way to introduce myself and to share an important key message about nature and our connection as people to nature. Stories enable children to get hooked and become engaged in a program.

This month I would like to share with you three storybooks that I read in my workshops to spark nature connection. These stories help share a message about sustainability, local ecosystems and the importance of environmental stewardship.

 

“The Tree in the Ancient Forest” written by Carol Reed-Jones and illustrated by Christopher Canyon is a beautiful story about the interdependence of the plants and animals that live in old-growth forests. Students are reminded of their own dependence upon nature and the importance of preserving and respecting living things.

I have a lot of fun reading this story because of its rhyming and repetitive word patterns. It allows the students to join in the story and follow along in a fun and interactive way. I highly recommend this book to any classes that are learning about relationships between species in their local ecosystem.

 

 

 

“The Little Hummingbird” written by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is an Indigenous story about a little hummingbird that is doing its best to take care of its home. Children love this story because it is so simple and leaves them feeling empowered. They understand that more than likely the little hummingbird was probably not able to put out the fire alone, but the fact that little hummingbird did something at all is what is most important.

Children feel a strong connection to animals and compassion for them. They see themselves in this story as the little hummingbird and wonder what they would have done in this situation. I always ask them what they believe the lesson is from the little hummingbird and they come back with the same answer every time: “it doesn’t matter your size, we all can make an impact, so always do your best to protect your home.” I recommend this story to anyone who needs a simple reminder of the importance of always doing your part to protect the environment.

 

 

“Wild Berries” written and illustrated by Julie Flett is a lovely Cree storybook about a grandmother and grandson going out to pick wild blueberries. This story really ties in well with our “Going Wild! People & Plants” program. The key message delivered in this book is about sustainability. It reminds us of those special moments when we truly make a connection out in nature.

While the story takes you on a small journey about going out to pick wild berries, it really draws on the connections that are developed over time between people and the land.  Students are able to easily relate to the story because it is simple and clear about how they too can make connections with all living things in nature. I highly recommend this story to everyone who loves picking and eating wild berries.

Here are some more of my favourite environmental children’s books:

Eagle’s Reflection and other Northwest Coast Stories by Robert James Challenger

The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer

West Coast Wild: A Nature Alphabet by Deborah Hodge

Explorers of the Wild by Cale Atkinson

From the Mountains to the Sea We Share the Seasons by Brenda Boreham and Terri Mack

Nowhere Else on Earth: Standing Tall for the Great Bear Rainforest by Caitlyn Vernon

Ten tips for successful outdoor learning

“Did you like going outside? OF COURSE!! I love going outside – it’s my only escape from stress.” -Sierra Club BC Education Program participant

Just like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962, the 2005 publishing of Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods was a catalyst for change. By coining the term “nature-deficit disorder”, Louv began a much needed conversation about our children’s connection to nature. Why are our children spending more time in front of a screen than they are outside? What are the impacts of this indoor lifestyle on our children’s physical and mental wellbeing? And most crucially, how can we reconnect our children with the natural world?  Nobody has taken on this last question with more urgency than teachers. The research is clear – students learn better when learning takes place outside.

And yet, the majority of a student’s day is still spent inside. As teachers we know that nature provides a more stimulating learning environment than the standard four-walled classroom, so why are we still stuck inside?

With this question in mind, our Education Team has compiled a list of tips to help you feel more comfortable taking your own class outdoors.

Kirsten Dallimore. Photo by K. Zolotas.

Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore. Photo by K. Zolotas.

Ten Tips for Successful Outdoor Learning

1. Temperature Checks

Going outside should be a positive experience for students. If a student is too cold (or too hot, thirsty, wet, tired…) they won’t have a positive experience. Taking care to ensure the physical comfort of students is important. That doesn’t mean you should stay inside during freezing weather, just make sure everybody is properly bundled – including yourself!

2. Ask questions

Evaluating experiential, inquiry, or play-based learning takes some creativity. Use questions, peppered throughout an activity to evaluate learning. For example, you can ask “What kind of berry are you picking?” as a simple way to evaluate that student’s learning. At the end of an activity provide debrief questions that allow students to reflect upon what they just learned.

3. Embrace volume…

Let’s face it, there is no such thing as a “proper outside voice.” If you are worried about getting your students’ attention in a large outdoor space, consider bringing a whistle or, better yet, develop a special signal. You could even try mimicking a bird call! (Chickadee-dee-dee!)

4. …and energy!

Your students are excited and invigorated – meet them at their level!

5. Ask an expert

If you aren’t yet comfortable taking your class into nature by yourself, invite somebody to lead a program for you. You will surely be inspired and gain some confidence from community organizations, like Sierra Club BC, that regularly bring nature into classrooms and classrooms into nature. Inviting Aboriginal elders and community members to lead a program for your class can be especially meaningful. School District 61’s Aboriginal Nations Education Division, for example, connects Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations community members with schools to lead students on interpretative hikes about native plant species and their medicinal uses.

6. Have a safety plan

While learning outside presents some risks that do not exist indoors, pro-active planning will ensure these risks are managed. Explain boundaries clearly and use a buddy system if students are freely exploring. Be aware of any allergies and always have an Epi-Pen on hand. If you are travelling a distance from your school, bring a first-aid kit and a cell phone with you.

Kirsten Dallimore with Heritage Elementary students in Prince George.

Kirsten Dallimore with Heritage Elementary students in Prince George.

7. Use nature as your teacher…

If our goal as educators is to prepare students to be active and responsible citizens, we should be engaging them in the natural world that they will be stewarding. This could be analyzing the effects of settlement or resource development in BC, or learning about sustainability. Do a scavenger hunt in a nearby forest, searching for natural signs of climate change vulnerability or adaptations. Have students find their own outdoor sit-spot. Make a connection to the arts by having students draw what they can see from their spot, or, take on the perspective of a bird, bug or animal and draw what that creature might see.

Sierra Club BC’s Education Program website is full of resources to help you bring nature into your lesson plans.

8. …or as your classroom

Who says the Canadian Parliamentary System has to be taught at a desk? Bring those worksheets outside and find a comfy spot on the grass. As students breathe in fresh air, stress decreasing and memory capacity increasing, you might just have your best Civic Studies lesson ever!

9. Going outside shouldn’t be a “reward”

Time spent outside shouldn’t be sold as a reward or as a special privilege. Access to fresh air and a learning environment conducive to student success is a right and should be treated as such. Outside learning can flow seamlessly with what is being learned inside and can easily become a regular part of your school day.

10. HAVE FUN!!

Don’t forget to make it fun. If it’s fun, it will stick!

 

Adapted from an original article by former Sierra Club BC Education Team member Kim McCrory. First published in BC Social Studies Teachers’ Association’s Dimensions (January 2014)

Going Wild! Nature and Play

By Sierra Club BC Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore

Sierra Club BC’s Going Wild! Nature and Play program launched in Fall 2016. It has truly been an environmental educator and nature nut’s dream come true. Since September I have had the incredible opportunity to share my program with a dozen kindergarten classes in various classrooms in Victoria, Sooke, Royston, Cumberland and Brackendale.

Willows Elementary. Photo by K. Zolotas.

Willows Elementary. Photo by K. Zolotas.

Going Wild! Nature and Play was designed to get kindergarten students engaged and excited about nature in their own school community. What better way than to facilitate a program that allows students to explore through touching, smelling, looking and listening to unique nature items such as deer jaw bones, moon snails, bracket fungus and local native plants.

We spend most of the program outside exploring nature with magnifying glasses, playing nature games, storytelling, and asking lot of questions about what lives in the students’ school community. Together we have been able to find animal homes, dig up earth worms, see eagles’ nests, and smell fresh fir tip needles in their own schoolyard.

Children are engaging in nature in a way that empowers them to be true explorers of the wild. They are asking questions like “why do the trees lose their leaves?” “what does a bird use to make its nest?” and “why does the tree bark feel different on each tree?”  This type of inquiry has led students to touch a variety of trees, collect materials to build their own birds’ nests, and make art out of fallen leaves and other natural materials.

I have had the privilege of exploring with kindergarten students in areas of their schoolyard or local forest that they don’t usually visit. My visit to the kindergarten classes are always special and very unique. It is all based on what the students are interested in and what kind of nature exists in their own community. Students experience something new in nature that opens their eyes and ears to what is happening around them. This encourages them to continue developing a deeper connection with nature.

Willows Elementary. Photo by C. Lyon.

Willows Elementary. Photo by C. Lyon.

One day when I was out with a class in Sooke, we visited a local forest. While the children were exploring through play, they came across a giant hole underneath a gnarly tree. Thinking this might be a home for a rabbit, together they covered the hole lightly with leaves. The students decided they would return to that same spot in a few days with their teacher. They wanted to see if a rabbit or another animal would show that it lived there by coming out of the hole and disturbing the leaves.

The kids are curious about how nature works and are happy when they have the opportunity to spend time looking for birds, touching plants and feeling the leaves. This is what enables them to develop a deeper connection with nature.

This program has been successful because teachers have decided they want to learn how to get their kindergarten students engaged in nature learning. They see the benefits of taking their students to the forest or ocean, building a garden, or being outside in addition to recess. This program was designed to support teachers in building nature connection and outdoor nature play into their classroom routine.

All the teachers I met this fall are working hard with their students to build an awareness of environmental stewardship. Below I am pleased to share with you the artwork and environmental dedication of the kindergarten class at Brackendale Elementary School. They have created their own educational pamphlet on endangered species in BC. These students are leaders in the movement to get outside and connect to nature.

Congratulations students, and good luck in your future environmental endeavors!

Download a printable version of this pamphlet to share with your students.

endangered-species-brochure_mrs-bowleys-kindergarten-class-at-brackendale-elementary-1 endangered-species-brochure_mrs-bowleys-kindergarten-class-at-brackendale-elementary-2