Nature Is My Classroom! (At Least In Canada)
I love this story about children in nature!
At Maple Ridge School in Vancouver, 60 children are without a classroom, but they are fine with that.
That’s because these students, ranging in age from four to 12, are part of a unique experiment in public education that allows school lessons to be delivered in parks, at picnic tables, alongside streams, under tarps and tents, in gardens, libraries, restaurants, fitness centers and even municipal council chambers, when they’re available. But not inside a regular school building.
Environmental School Project
It’s called the Environmental School Project and it’s so unusual that its progress will be monitored throughout this year and into the future by Simon Fraser University researchers, who obtained a $1-million federal grant for that purpose.
From The Vancouver Sun:
School administrator Clayton Maitland said he knows of no similar school anywhere in Canada.
“This is our classroom,” he beamed as he gestured toward the forest during a recent interview in Allco Park, northeast of Maple Ridge city centre.
The concept was approved by the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows board of education last November and quickly attracted enough students for the first year – 60 children from kindergarten to Grade 7 – with more on a waiting list. Maitland hopes enrolment will double next year to 120.
Parents are also expected to be involved with the school — all day, every day if they so desire.
Students Inspired By Activities In Nature
The idea for the school began to percolate in 2008 when Maitland, then vice-principal of Yennadon elementary, and Jodi MacQuarrie, a teacher/librarian at the school who was working on a doctoral degree at Simon Fraser University (SFU), began talking informally about the way the school environment restricts and defines learning and how educators might break out of that box.
They noted that students are often more inspired by activities outside the classroom, such as field trips and camps, but few remember the classroom as being their best educational experience, Maitland added.
They took their idea to SFU, where it captured the interest of educational researchers, and then floated it in the community. Finding support for the concept, the SFU researchers applied and received a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The trustees were the last to climb on board, with a unanimous vote of support late last year.
The school will divide its 60 students into three groups – called families, rather than classes or grades. These families will have 20 students each, from kindergarten to Grade 7.
One or more SFU researchers will be on-site every day — working with the students while also gathering information about their progress, the development of the school and the involvement of parents.
All Kids Need To Be Connected To Nature
This is such a great idea! Inspired by the thought that kids are disconnected from nature, which affects them adversely in so many ways, I wrote a book: Get Out! 150 Easy Ways for Kids and Grown-Ups to Get Into Nature and Build a Greener Future, which many teachers have adopted as a guide for getting their students outdoors.
Let’s hope other school districts get the idea that getting their students outside is a really good idea!
Photo Credit: iStock