Grade 7 students in last year’s first ever outdoor education program stop for a dinner break during a trip to Gavin Lake Forest Education Centre.

Grade 7 students in last year’s first ever outdoor education program stop for a dinner break during a trip to Gavin Lake Forest Education Centre.

Getting outside with SD27

The beautiful thing about going to school in a small town is our children’s schools are all within walking distance of natural play areas.

Frances McCoubrey and Nara Riplinger

Special to the Tribune/Advisor

The beautiful thing about going to school in a small town is that our children’s schools are all within walking distance of unmanicured forests, fields and natural play areas.

Districts around the world are looking for ways to get their students outside more as research is showing how important it is to academic and social success.  People who spend time outside are better at making friends, concentrating and experience less depression and anxiety.  Direct experience with nature is also effectively used in therapy for individuals with ADHD or who have experienced emotional trauma. Teachers and administrators in our district have recognized this and are working hard to find ways of incorporating more outdoor time and experiential learning into their students learning.

One of the ways the district is pursuing outdoor education is through Columneetza’s Grade 7 Outdoor Education Academy which started last year.  One of the goals of the program is to expose students to as many different areas of the Cariboo Chilcotin area as possible.  Students covered the Grade 7 curriculum while participating in stewardship, citizen science projects and outdoor pursuits.  Hikes included the upper and lower river valleys, Farwell Canyon, Signal Point and Gavin Lake.  Citizen science projects included students helping gather scientific information by assisting with Project Feeder Count’s bird count.  The Grade 7 science curriculum includes ecosystems and geology, making it an easy year to take learning outside.

Nesika’s Kindergarten class has been heading outside into the nearby forest almost daily over the last few years to look for bugs, play games in the snow, observe interesting details on the trees, play imaginatively, sneak up on ravens, experience the changing seasons, and dig in the snow for mouse tunnels. There is always something intriguing to do when they go outside.  This class also visits Scout Island as many times per year as possible.

Lake City Secondary teachers, with the support of Scout Island and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, will be taking Grade 10-12 students on the annual Salmon trip to Likely again this year.

This is in addition to a complimentary program for grades 7-9 students.  The program started more than 15 years ago and has students working with Fisheries staff to collect Chinook salmon eggs for the Stream to Sea program.  They also get to spend time with researchers at the UNBC Quesnel River Research Centre.

As this school year moves forward, many teachers will be looking to the outdoors to provide enriching experiences for our students. When you see kids in our community writing, drawing, measuring, and playing outdoors, know that they are learning in a meaningful way.

Frances McCoubrey is the distance education teacher for SD 27.

Nara Riplinger is a math and science teacher at Columneetza.

Riplinger, along with Jodie Mason, Kim Zalay are the teacher sponsors of the Greenologists, a student sustainability group.

Riplinger says they are also fortunate to receive funding from the Mitchell Odyssey Foundation which funds STEMs projects in BC public schools (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathmatics).

The funding helps purchase outdoor research equipment for students, participate in outdoor field trips to Tatla Lake, Horsefly, and other local areas, and gives a start on our greenhouse production.

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