2023 is a year of renewal in many respects, and this is certainly the case for teachers as they think outside the four walls of their classrooms.
Schools across the Kootenay-Boundary region renewed their support for outdoor and environmental education through the Take Me Outside for Learning School Year Challenge. This initiative allows teachers to commit to taking their learning outside on a weekly basis throughout the school year. Collectively there was an 18% increase in engagement from last year, amounting to 8998 students (45% of all learners) from across the region benefiting from this initiative.
Arrow Lakes School District No. 10 led the way, with 92% of their students involved. Superintendent Peter Dubinsky shared that “Outdoor and Environmental education is a foundational part of learning in our school district. We value and appreciate the land we learn on and see the outdoors as an extension of the classroom that allows for wonder, play, exploration, and care taking.”
In addition to resources and support, participants were also entered to win one of 50 fully customizable Outdoor Learning Classroom Kits supplied by the Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network ($500 value each).
Jenna Jasek, VP for Indigenous Education and Equity at Rocky Mountain School District No. 6, recently shared that “Educators can weave outdoor education and Indigenous perspectives and knowledge together with ease by examining local place-based learning. Being outdoors and using Indigenous perspectives provides various lessons all year through seasons, weather, astronomy, water, animals, and how to be stewards of the land. The relationship with the local area and being outdoors provides unlimited space for all learners.”
The overall goal of this initiative and the collective work of these school districts is to better support students’ understanding of their local environment and empowering thoughtful action, through learning that is outdoor, experiential, place-based and place-conscious.
Jennifer Roberts, Director of Innovative Learning for Southeast Kootenay School District No. 5, recently reflected that “It has been exciting to witness the growth of this initiative and to see the positive impacts in our schools. Teachers report that students are happier, healthier, more connected and show an increased level of engagement when they are learning in an outdoor environment.”