School Name: Maywood Community School
School District: SD#41 Burnaby
Inquiry Team Members: Megan Aprim firstname.lastname@example.org
Kerri Lanaway email@example.com
Kathryn Yamamoto firstname.lastname@example.org
Katie Worboys email@example.com
Ravena Berar firstname.lastname@example.org
April Strickland email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Arts Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing, Science, Social Studies
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Flexible learning, Growth mindset, Indigenous pedagogy, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Social and emotional learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? How can we find wellness with/through/from the land in different ways at different times of the year?
Scanning: We felt that our students needed some tools and support throughout the pandemic as this was having an impact on their mental health. Despite changes to learning, we still wanted the students to feel successful and supported. Knowing that students learn best when they feel safe, happy, supported, successful and cared for, we used this information to arrive at our focus for the year. Being in nature and connecting with the land is accessible to all students and can easily be adapted to meet the needs of all learners. With many lessons, we began with a read aloud story, then let the lesson evolve organically and followed the students’ lead on what they were discovering in the nature around them and how this connected to their emotions and wellbeing.
Focus: We noticed that the vast majority of our students were struggling with self-regulation and social-emotional well-being. We wanted to introduce the students to the land as a teacher and as a provider of mental and physical health. Our goal was for students to be more comfortable in nature, to connect with the land, and to gain tools to help them regulate their social-emotional health. And of course, we wanted to get students outside where there was more leniency around covid protocols.
Hunch: We became aware very quickly that pandemic classrooms are triggering for many students. There are far more rules/expectations and fewer freedoms. Students are not as free to be themselves and were struggling with being seated at a desk all day and being denied close contact with friends. Staff exhaustion sometimes meant less time spent tending to students’ social-emotional needs. We were not able to gather in community the way we normally do which has been extremely difficult for our entire school community.
New Professional Learning: We based our learning around the 30 Day Walking Curriculum with Indigenous connections which forced us to always be learning outside and connecting with the land. As a staff, we needed to change our practice of teaching only in the classroom and playing outside, to learning outside and using the outdoors as a classroom, a learning tool, and a partner in learning. We held 2 Pro-D Days to support this learning with colleagues, as well as posting resources to Teams and being available for resource sharing.
Taking Action: We decided to start general and then bring the learning to a more personal level. As a school, we used the “Humans of Regional Parks” idea as a template for connecting to the land and delving deeper into how the land helps our mental and social wellbeing. We spent time connecting to nature with our classes through the 30 Day Walking Curriculum with Indigenous connections before completing the school project. Some classes also wrote personalized Territorial Acknowledgements once students had a stronger sense of how they connected to the land. Some classes also used a variety of read alouds as springboards into the learning, and to help students connect their personal experiences to characters in the books and then to the land.
Checking: When we completed the school-wide “Humans of Maywood” project and put them on display, there was a tangible sense of personal, school, and community pride. We also noticed that when we went to the park or went outside on the school ground, students interacted with nature and the land in new and evolving ways. Students in classes that regularly went to the park or regularly went outside for learning, demonstrated more regulation and were better able to communicate about their mental, physical and social health. Students sought help from trusted adults or used tools they had previously learned. We want to continue this work next year as we feel like there is always room for continued learning and support.
Reflections/Advice: We learned that students need to be outside and connecting to the land. We learned that while it appears that our school neighbourhood is all apartments and cement, there is still much nature to be found and there are still powerful ways to connect with the land around us. Connecting students to the land is invaluable and has a hugely positive impact on the mental, emotional, physical and social wellness of our students. Many students grew in confidence. The land is an invaluable resource and many of us will be taking our students outside more next year, even if pandemic protocols are gone. Next year we would like to continue this learning, hopefully with the wider school community, and with more local Indigenous knowledge.