Can you imagine a curriculum focused less on memorized knowledge from a textbook and more on developing skills for critical thinking? We can, and we’re excited. BC’s new curriculum changes will be implemented this coming September. All elementary teachers will be teaching a curriculum geared towards big ideas, individualized learning, local knowledge, and inquiry-based practices. These changes will only strengthen our place-based and experiential learning programs. Since the winter of this year, we’ve been fine tuning our forest programs with the generous help of TD Friends of the Environment Foundation to ensure our programs continue to connect students to nature as best as we can.
Here are a few teasers from this winter and spring forest programs that illustrate the natural curiosity of students:
- During a forest soil activity, a grade 5 student who, for the first time, realized the process of decomposition could be seen and smelled underneath her feet, stated with sheer joy “I can’t wait to try this in my own backyard!”
- A conversation with a 9 year old student:
- SPES educator: “You really know a lot about bats; it’s impressive.”
- 9 year old boy: “Yes, I’m doing some research on the side. I really care and I want to help them against the white-nose syndrome. It is really sad.”
- At the end of a school program a 7 year old student exclaimed: “Thank you for teaching me today! I am a scientist, and I didn’t know about all of this, so thank you very much.”
- A grade 3 student enters our forest for the first time. After only a few minutes of an activity in which she was blindfolded and interacting with cedars, Douglas firs, and western hemlocks, she realizes she can now visually identify all three from afar all throughout the forest.
In each of these scenarios it is clear that these students are deeply engaged, relating the new concepts to their own experiences, and are showing signs that this program will be a catalyst for further inquiry. Inquiry-based learning is a skill that can last throughout a lifetime. By giving students the tools and skills to deepen their connection and curiosity with the natural environment, our programs’ impacts will not end with our 2-hour programs, but continue into the students’ classroom and homes. In a world faced with ongoing environmental challenges, our planet’s future stewards must think critically and creatively to create positive outcomes for the environment and the planet.
– By Dylan Rawlyk, SPES School Programs Manager