The idea of an outdoor school in Chase is gathering momentum, judging by an initial meeting held last week.
About 50 parents gathered at Chase Secondary School Friday morning to hear more about the outdoor education proposal.
Chase parent Stephanie Stumph, who has been spearheading the idea, says she is pleased with the turnout and all the enthusiasm shown.
“The talk after the meeting, everyone was blown away by what she had to say,” Stumph said of the information presented by Emily Styles, a kindergarten teacher in the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District who has researched the topic extensively in preparation for an outdoor school being set up in Salmon Arm.
“I ran out of surveys; I haven’t gone through all of them, but over 70 were received this morning,” Stumph said after Friday’s meeting. “There’s lots of interest.”
During Styles’ presentation, a show of hands indicated much support for the plan, with most parents interested residing in either Chase or Pritchard, with a few from Kamloops.
Styles told the meeting there is now a worldwide movement to get kids outside. She said much research has been done, and she listed many benefits including aerobic exercise helping protect people from Alzheimer’s and dementia.
It’s been recommended that children five and under spend six hours outside every day, while six to 12 year olds spend three to four hours.
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She said, emotionally, kids outside are more self regulated. Breathing the fresh air makes it easier to think. Children are calmer, more engaged with learning. It helps creative and social behaviour, and also creates an ethic of care for the environment.
“Engagement goes up,” she said, as well as academic performance.
Thirteen per cent of kids have anxiety issues, she said, which is not a coincidence with them staying indoors more, with more screen time.
She said children can develop a sense of accomplishment outdoors, while they might not do so in a regular classroom.
And one other reason to have an outdoor school “might be to provide a world where we have a future,” she said.
Styles spoke of Guujaaw, a Haidi elder, who said change is necessary, as it doesn’t make sense to keep creating children to be part of the same system that’s created the problem.
School is not just a place to keep children busy, but to teach them to be good citizens.
Related link: Outdoor school to open in Salmon Arm
She also spoke of Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba Group, a multinational technology conglomerate, who said machines can do technical things, but people have heart and creativity.
“Not to pooh pooh academics; they’re a tool to help us move forward in our future. But everything we teach should be something a machine can’t do.”
Styles said she’s not saying an outdoor school is something to protect the environment.
“It’s for creating a new world where people can work together… Where we think about how we interact with our environment, where the environment doesn’t need protecting.”
Stumph says the next steps for Chase parents will involve putting together a presentation for the Kamloops-Thompson School District’s board meeting on April 9.
The focus will be to show there is enough interest and people committed to enrolling. She adds that Styles is a wealth of knowledge and Chase will be benefiting from the process just completed in School District 83.
Chase Primary, the proposed site for the program, would require a building assessment.