School Name: George Greenaway Elementary
School District: SD#36 Surrey
Inquiry Team Members: Angela McIvor – firstname.lastname@example.org
Lexi Picken – email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Writing, Science, Social Studies
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Flexible learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Social and emotional learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? To provide students with an experiential and holistic way of experiencing the land in which they live, learn and play.
Scanning: Through the challenges we experienced this year, we wanted to bring joy back into our teaching and our students’ learning. With living through a global pandemic, we constantly had to adapt our practice. We wanted to become more in touch with outdoor learning to ensure students were safe, and gathering a better understanding of the benefits the outdoors can bring. We knew that the grade 4 curriculum connects so much to the First People’s Principles of Learning, and that it would tie in nicely with outdoor eduction.
Focus: We decided to focus on outdoor education because we want a unique way to include the First People’s Principles of Learning. Our school librarian introduced this opportunity to us, and we thought it would be beneficial for our learners and teaching practice. We also wanted to include students’ perspectives and see where they wanted to take their learning. With this information, we adapted our practice to match their needs, interests and abilities.
-Students might be distracted by other classes, or events going on outside
-Students may associate outside with play time
-Other staff may judge classes for being outside often (possibly thinking learning is not happening)
-We don’t have a good enough outdoor learning space
New Professional Learning:
Indigenous – Discover our Wild Native Plants with Lori Snyder
K-7 – You teacher where? A Day and a Life of Outdoor Learning and Teaching with Christine Syms and Diana Brebeck (Part of Surrey Ecological Education in district 36 – Seed36)
-“How to Teach Nature Journaling” by John Muir Laws
-“Get Outdoors – An Educator’s Guide to Outdoor Classrooms”
-“Walking Curriculum” by Gillian Judson
-First Peoples Principles of Learning
-Various outdoor Kits from the Surrey Nature Centre
Taking Action: We decided to start with Nature Journaling by allowing the students to explore our school grounds, including our enclosed courtyard. We connected students with the First Peoples Principles of Learning, so that they could view nature with a potentially new perspective. Here we explored the diverse forms of pants, and animal around us. Using the iNaturalist application, the students were able to identify the scientific names of the plants located on our school grounds. Students used tools such as magnifying glasses, tweezers, rulers and bug jars to support their learning and exploration.
Checking: Through this inquiry, we were able to embed many of the First Peoples Principles of Learning into our outdoor learning and through our everyday teachings. A large portion of the Grade 4 curriculum is bringing the Indigenous Peoples perspectives, traditional stories, and traditions into the classroom. With support from our Aboriginal Support Worker, we were able to share in conversation, history, and stories of the First Peoples in our region. Acknowledging the territory in which we work, learn, and play every day, students were able to make connections to where we live.
We noticed students began to appreciate and care for the land in which we work, learn, and play every day. Students demonstrated a love for our school grounds, by volunteering to pick-up garbage around the school. An appreciation for this lead us to participate in a program called Planet Protector Academy: Zero Heroes, A Mission for Zero Waste. Here, the students participated in various challenges encouraging their families to reduce their amount of waste to help protect our earth for future generations to come.
Both classes have seen a big change in the students’ perspectives on nature and outdoor learning. They have more empathy, passion and respect for the land, as well as its inhabitants. Students understand that most of us are visitors on this land, and that we need to respect it. Students showed an interest in protecting the plants and animals they discovered. Students have also developed a desire to want to work and learn outside in any weather condition.
Reflections/Advice: Participating in the NOIIE Inquiry for the latter half of this school year was such an amazing opportunity. My cohort partner and I were able to collaborate together to guide our students’ learning, by expanding our growth mindset as educators and passing this mindset onto our learners. Always with the First Peoples Principals of Learning in our minds, we guided our students through a guided inquiry to explore and learn about the nature that surrounds us. Putting our learners always at the center of our teaching, we were quickly able to see the curiosities of our learners. Together our students were able to collaborate, share, cooperate, and engage in a network of learning. The excitement throughout this process was evident in our students. They thoroughly enjoyed learning about science and nature (trees, insects, flowers, local indigenous place names, plants, birds, etc.). Through these explorations, we were able to reach out to the Surrey Nature Center to participate in their Distance Learning Field Trips, to bring some of their outdoor activities to our classrooms. This allowed us to build these horizontal connections within our community. These community connections were limited, due to Covid-19. We hope to further continue these connections.
With the funds provided from this inquiry, we were able to begin a collection of items to support Outdoor Education to engage our students. We have many ideas for next year to continue with our students. Our school would love to have a designated outdoor learning space for staff and students to use. This is something a committee will be looking into. If you have any recommendations or suggestions, we would be open to those. We would definitely like to dive more into some of the resources provided by our Professional Development workshops provided by SEED36. We decided to participate in this professional development after participating in this inquiry together. We are also participating in a district inquiry with technology, so next year we would like to integrate outdoor learning with technology. We also engaged in an educator’s podcast called ‘Teaching Comes Alive Outside’.
Outdoor education might seem challenging at first, but through practice, guidance and professional development, it is a great experience. We would recommend this to any teacher that is willing to try it.