Getting closer to nature: Bastion Elementary School grade one/two students take part in an outdoor classroom. - File photo

Looking to learn outdoors

North Okanagan-Shuswap School District to explore additional options for getting kids outside

More learning is taking place outside the classroom as students in the North Okanagan Shuswap School District head outdoors.

The movement towards outdoor learning is gaining steam and now the school district is exploring an expansion of programming, including the possibility of creating an outdoor school based in South Canoe.

In a presentation to Official Trustee Mike McKay about outdoor education in the school district, teachers Geoff Styles, Ceren Caner, Emily Styles and Bastion Elementary principal Isabelle Gervais, reported on the growth in outdoor learning.

Styles commented that over 100 teachers have taken one or two professional development days on Outdoor Learning, there have been seven ‘Outdoor Awesome’ events featuring whole-school-based outdoor learning stations for 14 elementary schools, growth in a number of outdoor learning spaces at various schools and an increase in school gardens.

Caner noted research is continuing to show the benefits of connecting kids to the natural world, including a boost in academic performance, enhancing creativity, critical thinking and problem solving, an increase in focus and attention by students, a decrease in ADHD symptoms, a reduction in stress, improved relationship skills and reduced anger and aggression.

“It is a serious movement, with serious study,” he noted.

McKay gave approval for staff to continue to research and explore outdoor education opportunities for students, including the consideration of an outdoor school, possible nature-based kindergarten, an outdoor academy at the high school level and assisting teachers in professional development opportunities in the area of outdoor learning.

He noted in other areas of the province, there are becoming line-ups for outdoor programs and offered his support and encouragement.

“Once people have experienced the power of (outdoor learning), no one says it doesn’t work… The community needs to hear about how important this is every chance we get.”