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?
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.
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!
Feature image by K. Zolotas.