School District No. 46 takes “Outdoor Education” very seriously. Our Strategic Plan has, as one of its goals, “Our students will experience, respect and enhance the natural world by actively participating in sustainable practices and outdoor education.”
We’ve seen a remarkable growth in activities related to outdoor education. Seventeen of our teachers recently completed the two-year Nature-Based Experiential Learning Graduate Diploma program with Simon Fraser University, in which they refined their understanding of learning in the natural world. These teachers will continue to enhance outdoor education for years to come.
Environmental education can result in longer attention spans, more creativity, higher levels of self-confidence, greater academic success, improvements in cognitive development, self-discipline, imaginative and creative expression, language skill and social interactions. Here, on the beautiful Sunshine Coast, our students experience the wonders of nature as a normal part of their learning.
Some key environmental education initiatives have included the installation of many vegetable gardens at our schools, enabling students to learn about gardening and nutrition. Schools also actively promote recycling, litter-less lunches and strategies to help reduce our environmental impact. Teachers from our “NEST” program at Davis Bay Elementary have been sharing their experiences at their “nature-based” school with others both from our district and far beyond.
The value of nature-based learning and the impact it has on the health and wellness of our students cannot be over-stated. Current research points to eco-therapy (the value of being outdoors) as particularly important in balancing the amount of screen time today’s students experience. Technology is here to stay, and outdoor education helps round out our students’ learning.
While we are very proud of our progress to date, we are planning to enhance opportunities for our students. We are developing materials and supports for “Garbology” in all interested schools. We are also finalizing an Atlas of Learning for the Sunshine Coast, an online resource for teachers to explore the outdoors.
Barry Krangle, a member of our District Environmental Education Committee summarized outdoor education nicely by commenting, “We’re making learning fun!”