School Name: Frank J. Ney
School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith
Inquiry Team Members:Terri Zolob: firstname.lastname@example.org, Jacquie Poulin: email@example.com, Wendy deGroot: firstname.lastname@example.org, Cindy Haack:email@example.com, Alex King : Alex.King@sd68.bc.ca, Tina Moore: Tina.Moore@sd68.bc.ca, Lindsay Ross; Lindsay.Ross@sd68.bc.ca
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: AESN (focus on Indigenous learners or Indigenous understandings)
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3)
Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Arts Education, Career Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing, Matahematics / Numeracy, Science, Social Studies, Other: Self-Regulation
Focus Addressed: Aboriginal 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? Using an Aboriginal lens and Outdoor Education how can we have our students develop self-regulation tools, a greater understanding of First Nations Cultures, and a respect for nature, themselves, and others?
Scanning: We saw through our inquiry process last year that our students started to have a greater understanding and respect for nature, our environment(s), and our First Nations’ cultures. We hoped that by continuing our inquiry for another year that our last year’s students and our new incoming students would continue to grow in their empathy towards nature, each other, diverse cultures, and deepen their self-regulation skills. We continued with the three goals that we had in place as they remained as important to us this year as they were last year. Those three goals are:
1. for our students to have a deeper sense of place,
2. for our learners to have a greater understanding, and appreciation/knowledge of our First Nation cultures,
3. to become a community of learners that continues to develop a lasting respect for nature, themselves, and each other.
We continued to notice the importance of giving our students a regularly scheduled outdoor education time regardless of the weather. We also realized that by allowing our students these weekly outdoor learning experiences, we were giving them the opportunity, space, and time they needed to explore, as well as helping them to develop creative and critical thinking skills. Furthermore, we believe it enabled our students to develop their ecological literacy as well as an appreciation for nature.
As a team of diverse educators with varying amounts of experience teaching outdoors our response to this question differs; however, we all agree that many of our students continue to come to school without the proper tools to self-regulate. As educators then, it becomes our responsibility to teach them how to grow these skills by giving them numerous opportunities and situations to develop these important life skills. We believed we saw gains in this area from our students in last year’s inquiry and we wondered, given the opportunity to repeat the process if we could more accurately assess the role Outdoor learning plays in helping our students to gain better self-regulation skills. In addition, by continuing with the same type of inquiry as last year we could see if our students truly do develop an appreciation for, and better understanding of First Nation’s culture, nature, and themselves. We know that Outdoor Education provides our students with a powerful learning environment that stimulates their sense of wonder and curiosity and we were excited to see what personal growth our students would experience during this year inquiry.
The OECD principles of learning and the First Peoples’ Principles of Learning continued to be at the core of our scanning process. As with our previous inquire the first 3 OECD (Learners at the Centre, The Social Nature of Learning & Emotions are Integral to Learning) principles continue to be the areas we know our students require for their success, not only in the context of our inquiry but also throughout all aspects of their school life. Additionally, we continue to embed many of The First Peoples’ Principles of Learning into the learning and cultural experiences that we continue to create for our students.
Focus: As mentioned above we selected this area of inquiry for three reasons; the first reason was that we feel that we had only just begun our inquiry last year, and we were excited by the results we discovered. We were also interested to see if these results could be repeated or further developed. Secondly, we had several new members on our team this year who had not participated in regularly scheduled outdoor learning experiences and they were excited by the prospects of learning about Outdoor Education when put into practice on a regular weekly schedule. Finally, we were intrigued to see if we might get the same results with our students this year as we did last year in teaching and growing their self-regulation skills, as well as increasing their understanding and respect for First Nations Cultures, nature, themselves, and others.
Our hope remained what it was at the onset of this inquiry, that through regularly scheduled Outdoor Education time our learners would continue to grow and develop their:
• self-regulation tools,
• understanding and knowledge of First Nations Cultures,
• respect for nature, themselves, and others
Hunch: We mentioned in our initial write up that until recently Outdoor Education was treated as “one-offs” in our school and that it was our intention to try to change that culture. We believe that we are making that impression with many of our primary students and their parents. Outdoor Education time is one of our students’ favourite times of the week, and our parents continue to support us in our efforts to teach their children about the value of outdoor learning. Also, several of our students who have now been part of regular weekly Outdoor Education for two years, and whom we considered to have poor self-regulation skills at the beginning of last year (their Kindergarten year) have shown significant gains in this area. These students are some of the same students who we might not have progressed as far as they have with their self-regulation if it were not for the opportunities and experiences that Outdoor Education offers them.
New Professional Learning: We learned and are continuing to learn about:
• the wonders of place-based learning
• our local Indigenous cultures
• Project W.E.T.
• Learning In Depth (LiD) (a ‘programme’ created at Simon Fraser’s Imaginative Education Faculty)
• Green Teacher,
• Nature Kids BC
The one invaluable resource to all of us in primary (when taking 20+) students outside was additional staff support. All of the classroom teachers in this project regularly scheduled their Ab Ed teacher to be that additional educator and support. Without the use of ‘human’ resources we feel we would not have been able to effectively manage or offer this educational experience for our students. Additionally, the support our administrators offered us was valuable in that they encouraged our efforts and were both strong advocates for outdoor education.
We utilized our PLC time to collaborate, share our experiences, and to support one another as we all learned and grew together along this journey.
Taking Action: • As all classroom teachers taught primary (two being K teachers and one a K/1 teacher) we realized that we had to coordinate the use of additional support through our Ab Ed Teacher to ensure that there were always two adults present during our Outdoor Education time.
• We also informally created the basic ‘structure’ of our outdoor education time to ensure consistency, for example,
o we would start our lessons gathered in a circle, and honour our traditional lands by sitting quietly to listen, smell, and ground ourselves in time and place by acknowledging those that were here before us.
o the teacher would read some short story or Indigenous tale that set the tone for the learning to follow.
o The students would be given a task that had been demonstrated in the classroom or at the outdoor classroom
o Teacher would remind the students of the expectations, safety, boundaries & measures put in place to communicate (ie – drum being beat fast = students return to circle to meet with teacher safely &quickly teacher needs to share some important/safety news, drum beating steadily = students return to circle to prepare for some other task or conclusion of outdoor education time)
o Students were set free to explore and do their given task
o All come back to the circle for closing ‘Circle Time’ – sharing of something the student is thankful for and to honour and respect the ‘Traditional Lands’ on which we were learning and exploring on
• We also had to inform our parents that Outdoor Education was going to be a consistent (weekly) and important part of their child’s education and that they were responsible to ensure that their child had the appropriate clothing etc. to actively participate in all weather conditions.
• All 3 of the primary teachers had the same seasonal aspects to our Outdoor Education time, but other learning was specific to the classroom teacher’s objectives. We often shared our successes and trials during the entire process to learn with and from each other
• This year we decided to extend the learning of our students to see if they could transfer their learning and expectations/rules of an outdoor classroom to different sites. We visited 2 different locations several times throughout the year (one ocean site & one nature sanctuary).
• Additionally, when possible we brought in First Nations’ Elders to deepen our learning – some examples were: Drumming and Singing with Elder Brown, Drum Making with Elder Donna as well as a Hul’q’umi’num Language educator – Adam
• During some of our Professional Development Days we would get together with other colleagues in the district to learn about and share our experiences with Outdoor Education.
Checking: As with last year these are very BIG questions and any answer we give will be lacking the richness it is intended to have.
To be able to summarize the differences we made would be impossible to document because as with all learning it is the infinitesimal nuances and ‘small steps’ that we all take that make our learning visible, memorable, and hopefully impactful. Some of the measurable learning/differences we did make include;
• recognizing and adjusting our teaching to fit the outdoors, taking the time to model what is expected in our learning space and how to interact within it,
• caring for our outdoor learning space and the forest animals that visit/live in it,
• classifying/identifying & naming some native plants, insects, animals,
• respecting, honouring, and giving, thanks to our First Nation Ancestors for allowing us to learn, play, explore, and grow on their traditional lands
• how and why the drum, the circle, and the talking stick/feather are so important and how to behave when we hear the drum, or partake in the circle with the talking stick/feather,
• how to transfer our learning in one outdoor learning space to another,
• how to better self-regulate our bodies and co-operate with our friends
• the importance of being quiet in a space and allowing nature to share its secrets with us
The students continue to embrace “their” learning area and have created unique learning areas such as; a (mud/dirt) slide, a ‘band or stage’ area with regular performances, a special tree that is their very own to sit with, talk to, and learn from, the building area, the ‘fishing area’, our open learning/exploring spaces, and carefully marked paths that denote human area vs green/nature/wildlife areas.
Is it enough & were you satisfied?-The only honest way to answer the first part of this question is with another question – is it EVER enough? There is always more to learn! However, we were again satisfied with growth of our students and ourselves as the educators that participated in this inquiry. Our students are regularly making connections in our outdoor classroom to their learning in the classroom and vice versa.
Outdoor Education has made an impact on all of us and especially our students who embrace many of the First Nation aspects we incorporate into our teaching and learning; for example, our students seamlessly say huy ch q’u (thank you) and e: nthu p e (my name is) in the Hul’q’umi’num language as much, or more than they would in English. We know that these are only ‘small steps’ but important ones that we hope will have lasting effects. We the educators (& learners in this inquiry) cannot even begin to express in words what this inquiry project has meant; however, our students would encapsulate it in the single word of thanks in the Hul’q’umi’num language – “huy ch q’u” saying it from their hearts at the same time as their hands are raised palm side up.
For a baseline – we started with the results from our previous inquiry and decided to continue on that same trajectory. We knew that we had about 1/3 of our students who were again participating in this inquiry for their second full year of weekly outdoor learning and we were curious to see how much of their learning they retained from the previous year. We also wondered how or if their personal learning had changed, for example, were our second-year students becoming more ecologically literate, more empathetic, and did they have better ways to regulate their needs? Additionally, we knew from last year that some of our more vulnerable students were able to better self-regulate because of participating in our weekly outdoor learning and we again were curious to see if we would see the same results this year with our new students.
Reflections/Advice: We think that all of our comments above demonstrate the heartfelt thanks and appreciation we had for this inquiry project. It has made so many visible, and subtle changes within our students, our classrooms, and our teaching practices. We as educators have seen the value of dedicating a specific block of time on a regular weekly basis to learn outside. We look forward to building on our students’ and our learning as we continue to incorporate outdoor education and all of its benefits into our personal teaching practices.
Our advice is twofold;
First, this quote from (https://naturevalley.ca/ourstory Trademark of General Mills 2017) sums up the essence of why we incorporate Outdoor Education into our weekly learning;
“…we believe there is amazing joy in nature. It’s the reason we have always been drawn to it. Because nothing else has the ability to calm, energize, and uplift us like nature does. Stop for a minute and savor it…. rediscover the joy of nature.”
Secondly, – “Just Do It!” (Nike’s trademark) – Yes, it will be messy, and cumbersome to start but the benefits are so worth it – you’ll see!