Teaching the teachers

40 teachers chose to spend their Professional Development day outside with the School Programs team learning tips and techniques on how to incorporate outdoor education into their teaching practice. The workshop featured an array of experiential activities teachers can adapt for their own students in local greenspaces. Teaching outdoors can provide multi-sensory, engaging learning experiences, while fostering valuable social, physical and mental development. We have seen more and more teachers looking for ways to connect their students to the outdoors since BC’s new curriculum for kindergarten to grade 9 rolled out in 2016.

Chandehl, a SPES educator, leads teachers around Beaver Lake.

Just one teacher, parent or mentor who shares a love of the outdoors can have a huge influence on a young person’s life. Here are three tips we shared at our workshop that can help you connect a young person to nature:

  1. Start small. Build up to longer outdoor excursions by starting with a ten minute exploratory activity on your school grounds or backyard. Gradually increasing time spent outside builds trust and helps students feel comfortable along the way. When you do set off for a big excursion you can feel more confident that things will go smoothly because of the routines you’ve practiced close to home.

 

  1. A sense of curiosity and wonder are the key prerequisites. You don’t have to know all the answers when it comes to species ID or ecology. If you don’t know the name of that tree or the call of that bird, use it as a chance for students to gather information, make observations and then extend the learning into the classroom later. Questions in the field can be a great way to let curiosity lead learning.

 

  1. Bring a few simple tools. Looking through a toilet paper tube can be an effective focusing tool. A white cloth napkin makes a great background for observing spiders when you lay it under a shrub and shake some leaves. Tools can provide a starting place for guided exploration.

 

When you head outside with a young person, as a teacher or informal guide, you’ll probably find your appreciation for the natural world is refreshed. So, pack your sense of adventure and fun and I’m sure you’ll find a few surprises to keep the questions and curiosity flowing.

Teachers take a close up look at the small things in a Stanley Park forest.

By Adria Hussain, School Programs Manager