David Hoy Elementary School SD#91 Nechako Lakes

I. General Information

School Name: David Hoy Elementary School

School District: SD#91 Nechako Lakes

Inquiry Team Members: Eileen Bennison ebennison@sd91.bc.ca, Andrew Mulroy amulroy@sd91.bc.ca, Patrick MacDowell pmacdowell@sd91.bc.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: ebennison@sd91.bc.ca

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)

Curricular Areas Addressed: Other: Core Competencies

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), First Peoples Principles of Learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? How does place attachment (knowing place) help promote wellbeing, engagement and over all cognition?

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: Our scanning began last year – we noticed that students were making connections to each other and to place in such a way that it seemed to help with self-regulation, community, well-being, and academic growth. We wanted to see if we could replicate or increase these observations, as well as pay attention to our own well-being.

Focus: We live in a transitional world full of dissonance between traditional pedagogies and progressive curriculum. Students do not seem able to hold focus or have an interest in the curriculum that is offered in classrooms. We were hoping to see less competition and a greater interest in learning about the world through going out into place. We were hoping to see more sensory integration as well, so that students were able to persist and remember on purpose (self-reg).

Hunch: Underlying family stories influence how students view schooling. Some students come from backgrounds with an underlying emphasis on grades and competition, others from feelings of not belonging and not being successful in the school system. This has a detrimental effect on community and learning. Also, children are not “free to play” outside of school, meaning that all 8 senses are not fully integrated, leading to sensory issues that make it hard to focus within a classroom. Constant dealing with the behavioural problems from these sensory issues, and connection issues, is detrimental to student AND teacher well-being.

New Professional Learning: Place Attachment by Low and Altman was our main source of inspiration. We were also influenced by Calm, Alert and Learning from Stuart Shanker and many OT/trauma resources listed in my blog

Taking Action: One of us went out when it was feasible, sort of a slow transition into outdoor place-based experiences, and this is a good place to start. Two of us (grade K and 6) continued on our weekly outdoor trips (one to various places in the local watersheds, and the other to a pit house). We also added a group trip (grade K & 6), usually with an elder, where we tried various simple activities such as journaling, reading stories, and games such as “predator and prey” to explore learning together.

Checking: This was not a year of successes – rather it was a year of explorations, trials, and errors. We spent a lot of time going over with students what they were learning and why, although buy in was not always there. We did see relationships that developed in the less formal outdoor environment carrying over into the classroom, as well as a greater enthusiasm for learning from most students. However, the answers to the 4 key questions really made us pause and we are not yet sure how to proceed. In the end, 2 of us decided this may be where we want to start next year.

Reflections/Advice: It is worth going into place as the less formal interactions lead to better relationships for the whole
community. When students say they do not want to go outside, that is often when they benefit the most from the sensory regulation that being out in nature provides. When students start whining about going out, about the same time mid-year behaviours are escalating; we did see a de-escalation in behaviours and teacher stress that lasted 2-3 days. Teachers and LSWs both reported feeling happier and better able to deal with challenges after going outside, and this effect also spilled into our attitudes the next day.

More benefit was seen when going outside regularly each week than was seen when going out once a month or less.

Start slow, give yourself a year (or three) to develop outside programs. It is worth it.