Written by Tracey Coutts, Ever Active Schools
Welcome sweet Spring, “when the world is mudluscious…(and) puddle-wonderful” (In Just-, E.E. Cummings) and beckons us outdoors to partake in its miracles. Yes, teachers, we know that many of you have been slipping on those rubber boots and taking your classes outdoors to Explore Your 2.4s and your school neighbourhoods, using your community spaces as extensions of your classrooms. For those who have are unsure how to get started, here are some ideas to help you along:
WALKING FIELD TRIPS
Firstly, check to see if a walking field trip policy exists in your school jurisdiction. Administratively, such policies reduce barriers for teachers to pursue outdoor learning opportunities off of school property. If one does not exist, consider advocating for it. There are Alberta school jurisdictions with this best practice in place, and the benefits to teachers and students are immeasurable.
The next step is to investigate your school’s 2.4 km walk zone with your students. Using Ever Active Schools’ Map and Explore Your 2.4 tool or your school’s walk zone boundary map, identify walking routes, landmarks, green and blue spaces, playgrounds, picnic spots (with lots of tables) and other areas within this space that will meet your outdoor teaching needs. Take some time to explore this space by foot or by wheel in all directions to get a feel for the areas you’d like to revisit with your students. Many teachers have used this exploring phase of Explore Your 2.4 to map this area with their students, like this 3 dimensional work of art created by teacher champion, Ronda Leblanc, and her students at Connaught School in Calgary:
OUTDOOR CLASSROOM ON WHEELS
Next, decide which course content pairs well with an outdoor environment (and your comfort level!) and what resources will make it easiest for you to do this. An Outdoor Classroom on Wheels (see images) is worth the investment as it helps to make outdoor learning the easy choice. Stock your wagon with clipboards, pencils, situpons, magnifying glasses, tarps, ropes, chalk, specimen jars, trees/insect/flower guides…anything you’ll need to make the experience a positive one for you and your students.
An Outdoor Classroom on Wheels is never complete without Ever Active Schools’ new resource, Outdoor Learning Quickdraw. The Outdoor Learning Quickdraw is designed to provide activity and lesson ideas for classes of any age and subject area to try outside. Just like some of our other popular card decks, the Outdoor Learning Quickdraw features 52 unique activity ideas organized into four suits:
- Physical Literacy cards suggest activities to help develop agility, balance, coordination and strength skills related to all types of movement in the outdoors, with inclusivity suggestions so all students can participate.
- Teamwork cards feature challenges for small group and full class activities that develop collaboration, communication and critical thinking.
- Environmental Action cards suggest activities and learning topics that can be tried as close as your schoolyard and as far away as hiking trails and provincial parks.
- Outdoor Skills cards feature key competencies for students to practice at school to prepare for single or multi-day trips into front and backcountry destinations.
Teachers, spring is knocking at your classroom doors and the seeds of outdoor learning opportunities are germinating. Go and take part in it. You’ll be happy you did.