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Headwaters students experience unique semester of ‘outdoor’ learning

June 24, 2020

GUELPH, Ontario – The students in the Grade 12 Headwaters program learned how to adapt the outdoor program this year due to the shift to distance learning.

Headwaters is a four-credit interdisciplinary environmental leadership program for Grade 12 students from any Guelph secondary school. Typically, students go on a wilderness trip, plan and teach a program for grade 3 students and engage in community-based projects.

This year’s Headwaters students and staff had to rethink many aspects of the program due to the shift to distance learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In previous years, Headwaters students have created a special day (the Rubber Boots Program) where they plan for and teach grade 3 students outdoor programming. This year, students were unable to plan for the face-to-face outdoor teaching with grade 3s and had to shift the focus of the Rubber Boots Program to an online setting.

At the start of distance learning, the grade 12 class was posed a question, ‘A nature connection online, can it be done?’ The students went to work brainstorming all the ways that they could still connect with grade 3 students in an online setting.

With the help of Headwaters teachers and the UGDSB curriculum team, Headwaters students developed a series of nature videos that would engage the grade 3 students and would bring nature to them while in their homes.

According to Headwaters teacher Katie Gad, this learning project for the grade 3 students was the distance learning project that engaged the grade 12 students the most. Entering the semester, grade 12 students were anticipating a hands-on, outdoor, community-based learning semester, so the idea of creating videos centred around nature created excitement.

At the end of the project, six videos were completed for grade 3 students. Video topics included the plant cycle, parts of a plant (dandelion dissection), diversity in leaf shapes, squirrels and the plant cycle, seed dispersal and tree safari (what makes a forest).

The feedback from the grade 3 students was very positive. Students said they enjoyed the experiments in the videos and thought they were really funny. Students also said that the videos taught them a lot about nature.

Headwaters students made the best out of the semester they were given and still managed to provide grade 3 students with an exciting education in nature.


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