I. General Information
School Name: Rosemary Heights Elementary
School District: SD#36 Surrey
Inquiry Team Members: Jane Silversides firstname.lastname@example.org, Kim Bomford Bomford_k@surreyschools.ca, Katrina Philpot email@example.com, Marissa Bourke firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Name/Email: Jane Silversidesemail@example.com
II. Inquiry Project Information
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Primary (K-3)
Curricular Areas Addressed:
- Applied Design, skills & Technology
- Arts Education
- Other: Social Emotional Learning
- Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation)
- Land, Nature or Place-based learning
- Social and emotional learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our committee focused on providing opportunities for students to connect to and learn from our local forest.
III. Spirals of Inquiry Details
Scanning: We knew that our students had the ability to play in nature, but not necessarily to pay attention to nature, to be at peace in nature, to observe nature, and to learn from nature. We observed that when provided with examples of how we can behave in nature, the students were able to find greater peace in nature and develop higher levels of respect for their surroundings.
Focus: We decided that we would go out at least once a week to our local school green/forested area and interact with nature in a variety of ways. Our specific goals were to help students develop curiosity and respect for this land. We used a variety of anchor books such as Step Out Gently, to help students gain awareness of the living organisms around them and the importance of stillness and reflection. The book, A Day with Yaya, helped them to gain understanding and respect for Indigenous ways of knowing.
Hunch: We thought that students, when grouped together, were unaccustomed to observing, reflecting and being quiet in nature. We aimed to help them to develop observation skills using their senses.
New Professional Learning: We explored a variety of outdoor learning picture books, and Indigenous picture books, to learn how to connect outdoor learning with Indigenous values. In addition, we purchased an outdoor learning wagon to help us further explore nature. Magnifiers, clip boards, books, and special seats help us with our investigations. Students felt purposeful and focused in their experiences, rather than free playing as they would at recess time.
Taking Action: When planning together, we laid out specific learning goals tied with anchor books to guide our direction. After exploring our green space in order to orient children to the new area, we decided that we needed to lay out specific lessons to follow. We built in times for reflection after the outdoor lessons, taking the forms of drawings, discussions and writings.
Fortunately, our students dove in deeply right away and had no trouble trusting their environment, and were eager to share their connections and observations! As teachers though, we found we needed to support each other and encourage each other when lessons did not flow quite as expected. We helped each other develop strategies to ensure students were focused and productive in their time outside. We needed to learn to take risks too, and also how to provide appropriate boundaries in this new kind of learning.
Photo (above): The student was excited to find a bone in the forest
and this gave rise to thinking about what happened in this space in the past.
Photo (above): The students were using found objects in nature to create pieces of artwork,
inspired by the book “Anywhere Artist” by Nikki Slade Robinson. We found that intentional
interactions with nature developed students’ interest and care for the land.
Checking: Sharing our purpose for outdoor education with the students, helps us them to better articulate their learning in relation to the goals. How do we know we are making a difference? We know by asking the students what they know about taking care of the environment. The students are able to share new language about stewardship of the land.
Reflections/Advice: Our reflections are about planning ahead. We went into this feeling very excited about connecting our students to the land and to Indigenous teachings. However, as time went on, it was soon evident that we needed to first teach how to behave in this new learning place. We learned that planning a group of lessons gave us direction and confidence. Though we had different age groups, we found that the students had similar take-aways: more respect and caring for the environment.