Home Quest SD#37 Delta

I. General Information

School Name: Home Quest

School District: SD#37 Delta

Inquiry Team Members: Kerry Dyck: kdyck@deltaschools.ca, Minha Kim: mkim@deltaschools.ca, Rosemary Harris: rharris@deltaschools.ca, SarahWildgrove: swildgrove@deltaschools.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Name/Email: Jenny Slinn/jslinn@deltaschools.ca

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

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

Curricular Areas Addressed: Applied Design, Skills & Technology, Language Arts – Oral Language, Mathematics / Numeracy, Physical & Health Education, Science

Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Flexible learning, Growth mindset, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? What is the impact of using outdoor/place-based learning on deepening connections and improving mental health?

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: We have 4 classroom teachers at Home Quest. Each term these teachers offer in-person classes 2 days per week, and virtual classes 1 day per week, to a grade band of K-1, 2-3, 4-5 and 6-7. Each teacher also manages a caseload of 36 students with whom they meet a minimum of 4 times per year, to plan and reflect on student learning and track their regular progress every two weeks through a shared Google folder.

Staff collaborate on Fridays. Many Fridays include a formal staff meeting, but collaboration is encouraged informally as well. Friday is a day of no classes and few family meetings, so teachers are encouraged to use some of this time to look at planning and meeting the needs of our diverse learners – whether it is in classes or for those not attending that may need some more support.

We used the feedback from the end of 2020-2021, and experience of previous years of inquiry, to plan our direction in 2021-2022. We were hopeful coming out of COVID, being back to some in-person learning opportunities, and knew mental health and connection were still our primary focus areas. Staff decided to work with a theme each term this year with an Indigenous lens (We are all Connected; Reciprocity and Stewardship). We have planned professional development with the Indigenous Department each term to support us with these themes.

Through collaboration and staff meetings, teachers have identified a common theme of mental health struggles and the need for connection amongst our students. In a specific brainstorming session in October, teachers reviewed the questions: What is going on for our students? How do we know this? What questions do we have around this? Through this and some initial observations about the difference in students in the classroom versus being outside, teachers began to develop their focus.

Focus: From our brainstorming sessions and initial data collected, we confirmed the need to focus on improving connections with students and supporting positive mental health. We also saw sparks in initial experiments with being outdoors and decided to explore that deeper.

Hunch: COVID was our main hunch for deterioration of mental health and connections. We had been overwhelmed by numbers and isolation and unable to wrap around close supports of our students. Having them back in person and with more freedom to be out and about would allow us to overcome these barriers.

New Professional Learning: We had some workshops from the Indigenous department on place-based learning, connection, reciprocity and stewardship. Each teacher was also given a copy of “Dirty Teaching” and access to an outdoor education kit to help them develop intentional learning opportunities outside.

Taking Action: Teacher #1: “I used outside time to connect to specific lessons – connected it to lessons from mystery science and backyard building. I also used a nature journal to document feelings, thoughts, and observations. We did sit spots and nature scavenger hunts. Also, my virtual class had a place-based element in assignments.”

Teacher #2: “My kids (in person) love spending time outside. I have mostly given them unstructured time. I tried some activities based on the ideas in the book, “Dirty Teaching”. We began having a circle time on the rocks. We practiced different kinds of movement around the rocks (based on animals). We had some quiet time there, listening and observing. As an “exit activity” from the rocks, I would call each student to whisper to me what living thing they had heard or seen. This was helpful for me to assess their knowledge and skills. I taught them a few outdoor group games as well.”

Teacher #3: “My kids love the time outside. Every day of in person classes, I incorporated activities from “Dirty Teaching,” like Nim, Science I-Spy, Leonardo da Vinci’s curiosity challenge. The kids seem to enjoy the activities. We have also done seasonal scavenger hunts. We’ve done SEL activities outside as well, sit spots, etc.”

Teacher #4: “We have done observations in nature, nature inquiries, nature walks, art with nature (Andy Goldsworthy), games (e.g., mathematics), and unstructured time.”

Checking: Teacher #1: “Because the kids make quite deep connections and ask many questions based on what they notice and observe outside, they are implementing some impressive, levelled questions and strategies. I have seen that the kids using the technique of notice, think, wonder, reflect (part of the artful thinking I have been studying), have a deeper resonance to everything. I have noticed they are thinking more deeply about their family connections and place. I notice that in the group some very strong connections and conversations have arisen as we have done this project together. I could prepare anecdotal specifics for that element if you want.”

Teacher #2: “I noticed that kids who did not usually play together in the classroom, began to play together outside. One boy who has social challenges, began joining in with the others in a game they invented on the slide. From that time on, I could see he felt more connected to the others, and he joined in more often during indoor activities as well. Outside, I noticed that kids invited others to play or initiated a game. This happened more often during our outdoor time rather than indoor time. Some would initiate the games that I taught them without my guidance. I could see kids trying out leadership roles and having to cooperate on their own incentive. I noticed that they stayed together outside, either in one big group or two smaller groups. The concepts I was trying to teach (living/nonliving things and animal classification) came alive during our time outside. We could spot mammals, birds and insects. ”

Teacher #3: “The kids know the EXACT time that we go outside and if we’re late, they are quick to tell me! I have a very connected, cohesive group, both inside and outside. What I have noticed is kids who are more reluctant learners in the classroom, thrive outside. All students engage in the activities. ”

Teacher #4: “Students look forward to outdoor activity/education time and always ask during morning meeting what we will be doing that day. I see lots of different groups of students interacting with each other when they are outside. It is a great chance for making connections in a more “relaxed” and open environment; I find that these are then brought back into the classroom. Every single student is engaged in the activities taking part outside – they are able to make connections and give input in different ways.”

Reflections/Advice: I think this was a gentle introduction for the teachers into outdoor learning. I think we could go deeper with place-based and hold tighter to the Indigenous lens . . . this was a bit lost. It makes me realize my journey into Indigenous ways of knowing and learning is a bit different from my fellow teachers, and this is an opportunity for more learning. The teachers continue to use care, connection and student voice, choice and engagement as their lode stones, so I know we are still on the right track and full of worthy learning.

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