School Name: Fleetwood Park Secondary
School District: SD#36 Surrey
Inquiry Team Members:Valerie Lumsden; firstname.lastname@example.org
Katherine Bell; email@example.com
Brittany Marti; firstname.lastname@example.org
Karin Proulx; email@example.com
Hilary Snodden; firstname.lastname@example.org
Christine Horton; email@example.com
Lisa MacDougall; firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: AESN (focus on Indigenous learners or Indigenous understandings)
Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Not applicable
Focus Addressed: Aboriginal understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Transitions
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? • How does the creation of nature-focused learning spaces and/or bringing students to outdoor spaces affect the engagement and overall well-being of our school community?
Scanning: • Students studied what the effects of various aspects of nature were on people and how it affected productivity. We looked at Indigenous values of connection to land and compared them to western values. They developed questions to ask other teachers and students and conducted a survey. From this activity, the students became very excited about how we could bring nature into our classrooms and they put together an action plan. The students realize the harmful effects of our classroom environment. They understand now why they value our class walks so much. They have learned to pay attention to nature through poetry. The students want to take their learning even further and study what effects a nature infused learning space would have on them and their engagement and success as a student.
The Four Questions:
1. As part of a group of intelligent professionals, we have agreed that ALL members of the group will be a success in life.
2. We have been learning to work through the inquiry process as professionals. Through this form of inquiry, we have been learning the importance of nature to learning environments.
3. Our inquiry project has been going well. We plan to extend our learning beyond our group to include our entire school community. Our surveys and anecdotal reports suggest that the inclusion of natural elements is having a positive impact on learning and general well-being in our school.
4. Our next piece of learning will be to report out our findings to other professionals. We anticipate that we will also seek further funding to continue to grow our project.
“Scanning / Spiral of Inquiry: Leaders Leading Learning / Leading Learning / Home – Educational Leaders.” Educational Leaders News RSS, www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Leading-learning/Spiral-of-inquiry-leaders-leading-learning/Scanning.
Focus: • Many classrooms in our high school are quite sterile. Students report that they feel lethargic, tired and un-engaged by the middle of the day. We have a beautiful green park down the street, but our school does not mirror this and has not incorporated any natural greenery inside. The students crave outdoor time and they realize now it is because of the effect that the land and surroundings have on them. We live in an area where it rains a lot – so it would be so beneficial to have more nature and greenery in our classrooms. It was our hope that through the addition of natural elements, students would report an overall feeling of wellness.
• Students studied what the effects of various aspects of nature were on people and how it affected productivity. We looked at Indigenous values of connection to land and compared them to western values. They developed questions to ask other teachers and students and conducted a survey. From this activity, the students became very excited about how we could bring nature into our classrooms and they put together an action plan. The students realize the harmful effects of our classroom environment. They understand now why they value our class walks so much. They have learned to pay attention to nature through poetry. The students want to take their learning even further and study what effects a nature infused learning space would have on them and their engagement and success as a student.
Hunch: • Our team believed that infusing classrooms with natural elements, as well as taking students outside into the local parks, would positively affect student productivity and overall well-being.
• According to our survey, students are averaging 6 hours a day in classrooms. Teachers report up to 8 hours a day. Across the board, both groups reported not enough natural light, dissatisfaction with air quality, and incredible dissatisfaction with temperature of the rooms. They all reported a desire for the integration of natural elements into the classrooms.
New Professional Learning: • As a team, we learned how to work through the Inquiry model as adult learners. We re-worked our initial inquiry question so that it was not only more succinct, but also so that it was better able to incorporate multiple facets of the curriculum. In this way, our re-worked question also included the impact of the inclusion of natural elements on our school community as a whole, which allowed us to survey teachers as well.
• In our research, we found validation in our hunches about the impact of nature on students and on teachers.
• Regular meetings and sharing sessions helped encourage members of our team. A release day spent shopping for and potting plants was not only great for the project, but also invaluable at solidifying our inquiry team.
• We consulted scholarly articles to further our professional learning.
• Townsend, David, et al. “From Action Research to Collaborative Inquiry.” EdCan Network, www.edcan.ca/articles/from-action-research-to-collaborative-inquiry/.
• Westra, Kathy. “Bringing Nature into the Classroom.” Project Learning Tree, www.plt.org/story/bringing-nature-into-the-classroom/.
Taking Action: • Students took part in designing a survey and were then surveyed regarding their impressions of the classrooms and the school environment. The questions focused on the impact of nature to productivity and whether students believed that increasing natural elements in the classrooms would impact both their learning and their overall well-being.
• As a group we looked through the research and determined which items would best impact the staff and students at Fleetwood Park. With a list of items and vendors, we spent a release day shopping. Much of our initial budget was allocated to purchasing plants. Classroom teachers included their students in the potting the new plants. Students embarked on researching the various plants to find the best locations for light. In this way, students really took ownership of the project and of their chosen plants in particular.
• Students and teachers were surveyed again to determine the effects of natural elements in the classroom.
• The surveys worked well. We had over 100 student respondents and 40 teachers participated in the survey. The results have inspired us to continue to find ways to support the implementation of further of nature into our school.
Checking: • Each of the participants’ rooms added live plants. Additionally, some of the other classrooms included imitation plants to the space.
• It is agreed that the project is still in its infancy stage, and further natural elements need to be acquired.
• We are however, excited to share our progress thus far with our school community in May. We hope that in doing so, other teachers will want to implement natural elements into their rooms, and extend their learning spaces into the nearby parks. We have also invited district staff to see and hear about the changes we have made and their impact on the school.
Reflections/Advice: • I was great working on an inquiry project with a team of like-minded colleagues from many different departments throughout the school. It helped build school community.
• Our anectdotal findings revealed that even small additions to an otherwise nature-starved and sterile classroom can have tremendous results. After a walk in the local park, students reported feeling more energized and alert. When asked about the effect of plants in the classroom, students stated that it lowered their anxiety. Teachers also enjoyed the effect of nature to their environments.
• We plan to continue the implementation nature-focused learning spaces within the school. Both in our current team’s spaces, as well as within the common areas of the school.
• With further funding, we would like to help other teachers and areas throughout the school add natural elements to their spaces.
• We would encourage any other school to infuse their spaces with natural elements. We found that even small changes have a large impact.