School Name: Pebble Hill Elementary
School District: SD#37 Delta
Inquiry Team Members: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Mcraven@deltaschools.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org 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): Other: Place-based learning
Focus Addressed: Community-based learning, Flexible learning, Growth mindset, Land, Nature or Place-based learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? At Pebble Hill we are wondering how we can utilize our beautiful outdoor spaces to help deepen our relationships to place and to each other, and as a result become more richly connected to and appreciative of all aspects of our community.
Scanning: As teachers we noticed that when students participated in learning experiences outdoors they were often more engaged and excited about their learning. The children were more able to manage their emotions and enjoyed the physical aspects of learning outdoors. Students however did not know how to separate learning experiences outdoors from play, and teachers were not that comfortable teaching in and about the community.
Focus: With Covid-19 affecting the way learning in classrooms would work, we decided that a focus on learning in and about our community would be beneficial and offer a variety of entry points for teaching experiences. We were hoping that students would be able to connect to each other and the community we live in, in deeper, more meaningful ways.
Hunch: The teachers at Pebble Hill wondered if we created a variety of physical spaces for learning outside, and became familiar with strategies to enhance learning in and about outdoors, would students think more deeply about our beautiful surroundings and engage in learning about the plants, animals, history, and land that surrounds us here at Pebble Hill?
New Professional Learning: The teachers worked in small collaborative groups reading through the many resources we purchased to find lessons that were meaningful to students, connected them to each other and to the surrounding community, and allowed them to think deeply. Teachers then tried some of the lessons out and wrote suggestions for their colleagues. We continued this throughout the year with additional resources. We also learned about and created a story walk.
Taking Action: We were able to create four different and extremely useful learning spaces. A rock circle, an outdoor classroom, an inner courtyard mud kitchen and an area for our story walk. We also created a binder of resources in all subject areas that teachers could use as starting points to learning outdoors, and a binder of resources for our mud kitchen. Each class created a story, poems, or other non-fiction writing weekly for our story walk.
Checking: When we started the year, most students saw the school yard as a place to play in at recess and lunch. Teachers mainly took their students outside for a physical brain break. At this point in the year, you will often see multiple classes outside on the school ground, in the community, and at our parks and beaches on a daily basis. Students have become more engaged in learning while outside. Students are able to self-regulate and need very little redirection. Teachers are more comfortable moving a lesson to an outdoor location or creating lessons/units that include connecting with each other and the outdoors. Our story walk is used by classes and individual students throughout the day.
Reflections/Advice: We have developed a beginning level of comfort for educators in teaching outdoors. As well, students now see the outdoors with a greater sense of wonder. We are only just beginning to realize the power that place-based learning can have for children. We feel that we could develop more meaningful lessons that allow students to think deeply about where they live. Our next steps include a more focused approach to learning outdoors and we are looking at using the principles of urban environmental education to guide our learning about our community.