School Name: Hazelgrove
School District: SD#36 Surrey
Inquiry Team Members: Amber Geremia: firstname.lastname@example.org, Nancy Skjonhals: email@example.com, Kerry Schwab: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Arts Education, Science, Social Studies
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Land, Nature or Place-based learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Connection to place, promoting personal connections with nature, learning through careful observation, and local plants and animals that are around us.
Scanning: In addition to the 4 questions, we also asked about time spent outside, and if they could name any of the trees or plants in the park beside the school. None of the students were able to connect their learning to anything outside the learning that takes place in the school. The students that we questioned had not explored the paths behind the school, and only went to the park to play on the equipment. The students could not name any plants that are in the area. We connected our questions to the First Peoples Principle: “Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place).”
Focus: During our scan we really noticed how disconnected the students were to their natural surroundings. We were hoping to help foster connections for the students to the place that we live. We wanted them to understand whose traditional territory the school is on and gain an appreciation for the gifts on this land (foods, medicines, etc.). We wanted the students to practice observing and looking closely to what is around them.
Hunch: Our hunch is that the students need to spend more time outside and connect with nature. The area around the school is densely populated; however, there are still some areas of the neighbourhood that can be used to explore nature. We think the students would benefit from taking time and looking closely at what nature exists around them. We hope that the students will develop a sense of respect and connection to the environment.
New Professional Learning: We purchased books and resources to support our understanding and learning about local plants. We explored our district resources, attended workshops, and spent some time exploring areas around the school. We purchased some resources to share with other staff to explore outdoor learning and connection to place, and the local plants and animals that we can find in the school neighbourhood (i.e. plant cards, bird cards, identification pamphlets, magnifying glasses, go find it game, photographs, resource books, etc.).
Taking Action: We really wanted to focus on experiential learning for both ourselves and our students. First, we focused on the history of the place where we live. We read several Coast Salish stories and connected it to the place that we live. My class went outside on short field trips to a small wooded area in our neighbourhood. Each week we took notes, made observations, and paused and reflected on what we saw, what was different and what we think would happen next. We did several activities that focused on having students take their time to look closely. Students practiced identifying the variety of plants and animals we saw. We learned about traditional plant uses and watched videos about local trees and plants. We had conversations about invasive plants/animals and discussed the consequences. We used these opportunities to connect to other areas of the curriculum and embedded art into documenting what we observed. We were very lucky see some amazing birds, such as ravens and eagles, and even a blue heron. The students loved learning about the local birds — it has left an impact on them; many of their year end reflections on favourite things they have learned this year included learning about birds. I have created a PowerPoint to share with the staff that includes outdoor learning ideas involving local plants and animals.
Checking: The baseline was that the students were disconnected to the land and nature around them. They also had a hard time connecting their learning to their lives, and to where their learning was going. The students took much longer to answer the questions and seemed to be thinking more deeply about it. One thing that really stands out is that the students are now bringing what they have learned home with them. They are sharing what they have learned with their families and connecting with the local area on their own time. The students have become more aware of respecting nature and feel responsible for taking care of it. The students feel more connected to their learning and the land that we live on. The students were asked to write and draw what they had learned during these outdoor learning experiences; we were amazed with what they were able to take from it. We were satisfied with the results and hope to continue our learning and transforming our practices.
Reflections/Advice: We learned that “learning takes patience and time.” When the students had chances to connected their learning to themselves, and had time to think deeply about things, they were able to thrive. Even though at times being outside can be unpredictable, and things may not go as planned, the students were learning to be flexible with their learning, and that just getting outside was important. We learned that student driven learning can be rich and meaningful, as activities were often centered around what the students were interested in. We hope that our experiences and enthusiasm will inspire more teachers to take their students outside. Moving forward, we hope to provide opportunities to collaborate as this has been a challenge because of Covid restrictions.