Monday 11 December 2017

Cross-Grade Connections Through Outdoor Learning Experiences

November 2 marked the first day of snow this season.  It also marked an outdoor adventure day for a group of grade 10s from PenHigh and the grade 1/2s from Queen’s Park Elementary.  The two groups were brought together to share in a special field experience at Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park.  Despite the chilly temperatures and unfamiliar surroundings the kids were fast friends as they stepped into the wilderness together. 

 Prior to the trip the grade 10s had recently completed a Wildlife Monitoring project based in the park.  The project focused on wildlife specific to the Bluffs and culminated with student-led data collection using motion-sensor cameras.  The scaffolding lessons leading up to the project were designed to connect the students to our community and the local landscape.  Some of the activities included meeting with a conservation biologist, researching local wildlife-conflicts and learning how the Penticton Indian Band is helping to restore the bighorn sheep population.  Needless to say the grade 10s had a lot of experience and knowledge to share, even though they might not have realized it.

For the grade 2s this outdoor experience would be the first of a series of field trips aimed at connecting students to the local environment.  The classroom content (adaptations, cycles and communities) they had been working on translated to a strong foundation of understanding and good preparation for our outdoor adventure.

The morning together was full of partnered activities that engaged the senses and promoted exploratory play.  From a teacher perspective the most powerful piece of this partnership was the leadership opportunity it provided to the grade 10s.  Not only did they orchestrate the set up the motion-sensor cameras (which is more complex and strategic than one might think) but they also got to role model behaviour that respected and honoured the wildlife within the park.  The enthusiastic and energetic grade 2s were the perfect audience (and partners) for the older students.  Their natural curiosity, wonder and desire to explore was infectious and energizing for the grade 10s.  More importantly, the grade 2s were unencumbered by cell phones which left them free to enjoy the experience, a shocking and novel concept to the grade 10s. 

The unintentional role modelling demonstrated by both groups during this outdoor experience was powerful and only a small part of the transformative work that can happen when we let the land be our teacher.  Thank you to HCTF Go Grants, the Vancouver Foundation who supports this work, and all of the students who allow experiential outdoor programming to happen.

Blog post thanks to Allison Dietrich and her work with Nicola Korvin 

No comments:

Post a Comment