I decided to take a week off last week to celebrate Thanksgiving weekend. I had the privilege of spending the weekend in the Canadian Shield at my in-laws cottage and found it very restorative. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go to the Guelph Arboretum for a walk with my wife and Murphy, our dog. Both experiences inspired me to write about our initiatives at school to reconnect with nature as a great learning environment. My goal for this post is to communicate what we are doing at school to connect your child with the environment, provide some ideas for you to connect with your child to #getoutside, and provide some further information on the importance of “getting outside”.
As part of the School Improvement process and plan – to increase student achievement – our teachers have identified “Urgent Student Learning Needs”. One teacher team is working on creating learning experiences that connect students with our local environment, both directly outside the doors of the school, or within walking distance. We have amazing access to greenspaces within walking distance of the school. Parks like Franchetto, Lions, and the gardens in the Ward provide rich learning environments for our students to practise expectations in math, science, art, physical education and language curricula. We are also building an interactive landscape garden on the school grounds.
There are many studies that point to the importance of getting outside and interacting with our natural environment and the detrimental effects of staying indoors and too much screen time, for instance. There is even research and writing on Nature Deficit Disorder! For further reading on this you can visit http://richardlouv.com/books/nature-principle/excerpt/. Dr. Louv recently spoke to a group of Principals and Vice-Principals, as well as teachers at the request of our Environmental lead. You can view some of the learning connections and Ecoschools information on our Library/ Learning Commons site at https://sites.google.com/a/ugcloud.ca/johngaltlc/home.
So what? Know that staff is working hard to get your children connected with learning in and with nature and the greenspaces in our neighbourhood. Know that being in nature benefits mental and physical well-being.
Ask your child “When is the last time you went on a neighbourhood walk with your class?” and “What did your learn?”. Watch for opportunities to volunteer for these walks.
More importantly, ask your child to take you to these places and experience our neighbourhood greenspaces together. (I have downloaded an app called iNaturalist on my mobile device – just one of the examples about how you can record, share, and learn about the local flora and fauna).
Search the hashtag #getoutside for ideas. And most importantly, #getoutside – enjoy and appreciate time together experiencing the colours, sounds, smells, and sensations that our greenspaces provide.