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?  

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? 

Stanley Park

When my husband and I got married last year, it was wonderful.  We had a lovely ceremony in my grandfathers backyard.
For our honeymoon, we decided to explore Vancouver for a long weekend.  As the weather is once again freezing, I am reflecting on warmer weather and beautiful scenery!

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It was a beautiful sunny day when we toured this iconic park.  So pretty in fact, we went twice!  Once to walk around, another time to take a boat tour around the bay.  It was stunning to believe that such a place existed in Vancouver!  It’s trail system was spectacular and the people all had one common purpose: to be outside, enjoying the sunshine!

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The trees were stunning.  Tall, magnificent, and so very green.  You can feel the history and magnificence when you walk beneath their branches.  With the sun coming just between them, there is no other feeling like it on earth.  It is refreshing, energizing, and rejuvenating.

 

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The views from some of the lookouts was also breathtaking.  It was surreal to look out and know that the ocean was a short distance away.  I was hoping to see whales, but no such luck!  Seeing the sailboats sail past and the big cargo ships off in the distance gave me the impression of vast networks all intertwining to connect people.  Much like nature connecting with other pieces to create a vast network.  All working together.

This trip truly was amazing.  J and I didn’t have much time or money to take a trip last year but this was one that will be treasured.  Stanley Park was definitely my favorite part of our trip.  It was heartwarming to see a place that was so full of nature and beauty being preserved in such a busy place.  And well used!  Lots of people were out enjoying it’s fresh air and views.

 

3 things to keep in mind:

  1. It gets busy! Try to visit in the morning.  This will ensure you get a parking spot (if you drive) and you will get to enjoy it without a lot of the crowds.  Earlier the better!
  2. Parking is not free. This was a bit of a shock to us but it makes sense.  There is little space on the island park so they want people to use other modes of transportation.  But there is a bit of a fee to park.  The nice thing is, once you park, you are good for as long as you need.
  3. It is a long way around.  We were optimistic about making it all the way around the park on foot.  This did not happen.  It is a long way around but it is doable.  Just budget your time wisely.  There is a trail that loops the entire island!

 

Tell me, what is your favorite place to visit in Vancouver?

Walk in the Park

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Sunday mornings are my favorite.  My husband and I take our dog out to the local dog park.  It such a wonderful place!  There are trees, fields, river views, and just nature!

No matter what I’m feeling, going outside into nature gives me a sense of contentment.  Every stress that may be weighing me down, disappears.  I am just out, in the fresh air, with my little family.

These places are worth mentioning because this is not out of town.  This dog park is in the middle of a city!  So even though we are not able to get outside of the city, we can still escape to the great outdoors within 15 minutes of our apartment.

How do you get outside and connect with nature?