Banff

Alright everyone, I have been missing for awhile. 

A lot has been going on.  Being a teacher means I live a life of exhaustion, highs and lows.  Love my job, but it has been taking me away from the outdoors. 

In the summer I have the pleasure of traveling to Banff, AB.  I haven’t been to Banff in a few years so this was a treat! 

Jumpingpound Summit

Before I even got to Banff, I wanted to do a solo hike.  This was terrifying!  I have never done a solo hike before so I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it. 

When I mentioned to a friend that I would be doing a hike though, she wanted to join.  While I wanted to do a solo hike, I also couldn’t help but think “This will be so much fun though!”.  I told her the hike I wanted to do (Jumpingpound Summit) and she agreed to meet me there with her partner. 

Let me start of by telling you, the drive to get to the trail head is not an easy one!  It is a little logging road with big trucks coming around tight corners.  It was definitely a scary start!  But, I didn’t let that stop me.  I kept thinking, “Just keep going, it can’t be that far away!”  It was.  But that is besides the point! 

Enjoying the quiet at Jumpingpound Summit trail head

I was waiting for a little bit for my friends to arrive.  But while I was waiting, I was enjoying the peace and quiet.  The day wasn’t too hot yet (15 degrees C or so) so I sat in the back of my vehicle, ate some trailmix, and enjoyed.  The wind in the trees, the occasional bird call, it was all relaxing and new and yet calming. 

We started up the trail head.  This trail was rated moderate.  It wasn’t very long (total of 6 km out and back) and an elevation gain of 413 m but it came fast!  The switch backs were an interesting start but the forest views and the company were awesome!  It was definitely a trail I would do again. 

My only problem was my feet.  I must not have laced up my hiking boots well enough because I ended up with two large blisters on both feet!  

View from part way up
View from the top
Us at the summit
What a view!

Conference views

I was in and out of a conference the entire time I was in Banff, but the views were spectacular.  It was held at the Banff Centre (which is beautiful) and the views were stellar!  Mind you, the views were great for only a few hours on one day as the smoke from the wildfires blew in and blocked it for three days straight after that.  I was just glad I got to see some of it! 

Bow River
Fairmont Banff Springs hotel
View from my conference window!

Grassi Lakes Trail

I was fortunate enough that one of my friends living in Calgary was able to come out and do a little hike with me one afternoon.  We didn’t want a long one but one with spectacular views.  Grassi Lake did not disappoint! 

This trail is an easy one (3.2 km loop, elevation gain of 173 m) but I am glad we took the “harder” path.  This path was a little more rocky and you did feel like you were crawling up a mini waterfall at one point (I was glad it was a fairly dry day, otherwise this part would have been very muddy and slippery).  But the lakes at the top were a wonderful teal color!  It was fenced off for construction but we didn’t let that stop us from enjoying the color and views. 

Waterfall view as you climb
One of the Grassi Lakes

FEnland trail 

By this point, my feet were sore and my mind was tired from the late days at the conference.  But another friend came out to enjoy the scenery so we decided to enjoy this little trail together.  This was by far the easiest trail of the trip (1.8 km loop, elevation gain of 55 m) but it was pretty forest walk.  Occasionally you would walk beside two creeks (lots of bugs!) which were a beautiful blue color.  Apparently you can canoe down those creeks (which we didn’t do)!  

I would recommend this trail if you need an easy forest walk close to Banff.  It was quick but my feet needed a rest.  Those blisters were not healing fast enough! 

Creek along the trail
My friend enjoying the trail!
The colors were stunning!

Have you been to Banff, AB?  What do you like to do while there?  I’d love to have new ideas for next time! 

Outdoor Classroom

One of the things I love about being a teacher is learning new techniques and going to professional development sessions.

Recently, I went to a PD session that looked at how to incorporate the outdoors in our classes and how to enhance nature literacy in students.

What an amazing experience!  And I had the chance to share the experience with a colleague.

 

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We looked at simple techniques.  For example, collecting things they find outside in an egg carton and coming up with one word to describe each item.  Another group then had to guess what our words were.

How simple is that?  What I loved is that it means students have to look at the details in things they find as well as work together on their language skills.  It’s an easy activity for all grades, all levels and still gets students outside and learning.

One thing that stuck with me was “How can we expect students to save the planet if they aren’t given the opportunity to love it?”

 

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A botanical garden was the host of our day.  We had the opportunity to explore the indoor gardens.  It’s places like this that I wish we could take students to more.  I wish we weren’t burdened with finances, timelines, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I love where I teach.  But it is in an urban setting which has its difficulties when trying to commune with nature.

 

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Thinking back on the experience, I learned more than I realized.  We have to give students meaningful and realistic experiences with the outdoors.  A simple activity of going outside, collecting rocks, talking about them, and then journaling their experiences can make all the difference between caring for nature and not.

 

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My love of nature developed from being outside.  People today spend less time outside than maximum prison inmates!

Students deserve the chance to love what keeps them alive.  I want to share my passion for the outdoors with my students.

How do you share your passion with others? 

What other ideas do you have for outdoor activities for students?  

New Orleans

Well, my little sister got married on Monday!  It was a wonderful ceremony and we had the opportunity to visit New Orleans in the process.

 

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We didn’t stay long.  It was a quick flight down, touristy things one day, wedding day, and fly back.  But, we saw some beautiful scenery.

 

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Even in the middle of the city, they had some green park areas.

Now, please keep in mind that we didn’t stay long.  There is so much to see and do, we didn’t even get a real chance to start!  It was a short stay but as you know, I love greenery.

 

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For my sisters wedding, we went to Auduborn Park where she got married under one of the trees.  Let me tell you, some of the oak trees in this park are about 240 years old.  It is still hard to image, something that old.  Imagine what those trees have been through!

 

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This is the Tree of Life.  This is the tree my sister got married under.  Isn’t it beautiful? It was old, reaching, and clearly well loved.  Lots of people would sit under it’s boughs and enjoy it’s  protection.  We were able to have the ceremony under it’s embrace.

 

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Look at those majestic boughs!  Where I live in Canada, we don’t have anything this grand.  I was in awe of how large the branches were and how they would reach the ground meters away.

Though my stay in New Orleans was short, I definitely would love to return.

 

Have you been to New Orleans?  What did you enjoy doing?  I need ideas for next time I go! 

Teaching Outdoor Education

One of my favorite parts of my job is teaching the subjects I am passionate about. Part of that is, not surprisingly, nature!

One of the CTF options I teach to kids is Environmental Stewardship and Outdoor Pursuits. Long name, I know. But we shortened it and now we love it!

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One piece of the puzzle was building shelters. I did not give them any hints! The criteria was they had to create a shelter that would hold all of their group members AND could withstand the basic elements (rain, wind, snow, and heat). They were given a bit of time to research but that was it.

Then the fun began!

They had one class to create a shelter outside with the materials they brought from home. It did not go well. Lots of frustration from the students. (It did not help that there was a lot of wind that day!) At the end, I told the students that they had to improve their shelter for next class.

The picture above was from the second class of building shelters. Again, I did not help them and this is what they came up with! Very proud moment.

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Today, we started fires!

You can imagine the excitement I got from the students. We discussed the difference between tinder, kindling, and log fuel. We also discussed the 3 basic needs of a fire (oxygen, heat, and fuel).

Each group got a tin can. A big can from tomato soup. I drilled a hole in the sides of the cans to allow oxygen to get to the ashes.

Students then started fires. They had to option of using matches or flint and steel. Big difference in their abilities when it came to using those! Some were nervous to use matches but were excited to learn. Some were unsure how to put the wood in the tin but built some beautiful tee-pee structures. Some were confused as to what to use if their fire starting going out but quickly learned to determine what their fire was lacking.

Over all, the students were excited to build fires, realized it was more complicated than they originally thought, but were so proud of themselves when they got their fire going.

I love this class!

Do you teach an outdoor class? Any tips or neat lessons you use to motivate students love of the outdoors?

Worms and Plants

So, I am a teacher as some of you know.  I teach Grade 5 (LOVE it!).  One of my favorite parts of my job is giving the students something different and real for them to do.  This sometimes comes in the form of work or sometimes just an experience.

This year, I started a worm factory in my class.  Now, I know what some of you might think, “Ewww!!”.  Some of my students feel the same as you!  The students thought it would smell.  We came up with a solution for that (a lid on the worm factory as well as a blanket on top to keep the flies and smell down).  Honestly, you can’t smell it unless you take the blanket and the lid off.

Now, how effective is it?

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These pictures are two weeks apart.  It works!  The students love to see how much they eat and feeding them fruits and veggies.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am sure they would prefer a fluffy pet.  But we talked about how no other class has this many pets in their class!  (We have over 100 worms now)

Not only is it teaching them conservation and a different way to get rid of waste, but it also is something a lot of them don’t see often. Only 3 of my 21 students knew how composting worked.  Now they all do and they see the benefits from it.

Ok.  But what does this have to do with plants?

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Because this little guy showed up.

We found him growing in our compost.  Students were stunned that something so small and fragile could be growing under the lid.  We took it out, planted it in a pot, and waited.  It took us awhile to figure out what it was.

Any guesses?

An apple tree.  We have an apple tree growing from our worm factory/compost!

The students are so very excited to have something like this growing in our room.  (I am just hoping we can keep it alive!) We had to have a talk about the fact that we will not have apples in their time in my homeroom but that they will have to come visit me in a few years to get anything from it.

I have students asking to water it.  I have students wanting to watch it.  I have students genuinely concerned over this little plants well being.

It is theirs.  They found it.  They are growing it.  They are so excited.

Today, we found these:

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Any guesses?