Holly Zurak photos Big Lake Elementary School students work with members of the Williams Lake Community Forest in the wilderness surrounding the school earlier this month.

Big Lake elementary goes ‘wild’

Elementary school gets application to be a “Wild School” for the 2018-2019 school year approved

Big Lake Elementary School is going wild.

The elementary school has just had their application to be a “Wild School” for the 2018-2019 school year approved by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation.

The Wild Schools program is a free, whole-school, three year initiative for K-9 schools to support outdoor and place-based learning. This interdisciplinary, curriculum-linked program helps school communities to increase ecological literacy, outdoor field experiences and to build connections in conservation in the community.

Through hands-on environmental learning and experiences, students are engaged through a process of wondering, inquiring, learning and doing. Wild Schools have the opportunity to develop stewardship practices, on-going outdoor learning, community partnerships and support students in becoming environmentally responsible citizens.

“Big Lake has already been focused on nature education and we are so excited about this opportunity,” said principal Holly Zurak.

“We are already in the planning stages of expanding our outdoor learning spaces and are looking into building an outdoor classroom. We are situated in a beautiful space right between lake front and forest’s edge and we’re decked out with outdoor education equipment we were able to purchase with a GO Grant (Get Outside) we received this year from Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation for $3,000. This helped pay for busing to nature trips, nature facilitators, and equipment that we used to fill up GO bags (backpacks) that we purchased from Red Shred’s.

“Our kids are so excited!”

On May 2 the school had a visit from the Distance Education Intermediate Class and their teacher, Bev, as well as three student teachers from UBC who are currently in “alternative education” practicums.

Hugh Flinton, manager of the Williams Lake Community Forest, along with his summer employees, led the school’s two intermediate classes through three rotations: plants, trees and wildlife.

All three rotations headed out from Big Lake Elementary, which is bordered by forest and lakefront.

“The students enjoyed interacting with nature and learning more about our forest,” Zurak said. “This was place-based learning at its best.”

Before the end of the month, the school will host the Nature Kindergarten class and the Grade 7 Outdoor Academy to tour the community forest from Big Lake Elementary, as well.

Then in June, we will host a graduate teacher from UBC, who is currently studying at the Gavin Lake Forest Education Center.

“We are pleased about our blooming relationship and look forward being a hub for nature learning and outdoor education in our school district in the years to come,” Zurak said.

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