Fresh ways to make the outdoors your classroom

As the days grow warmer, there are more and more opportunities to take your classroom into the outdoors or plan outdoor projects and activities. 

It’s more important than ever to get our students outside: children are spending on average only six minutes playing outside a day, as this eye-catching graphic from The David Suzuki Foundation shows. Meanwhile, they spend an average of six hours a day in front of a television or computer. 

The Outdoor Classroom Project shares that outdoor classrooms and activities improve physical development, promote an active lifestyle and let students release pent up energy. Not to mention, as little as one hour spent outside can make students happier, have higher self-esteem and develop an appreciation for nature.

This is especially important for students living in urban areas. For the first time in history, there are more people living in cities than in rural communities.  Nestor Kelba, the general manager of Calgary-area Kamp Kiwanis, put it best when he told the Calgary Herald: “Touching, feeling and seeing nature helps students develop a fondness and a good feeling for the outdoors, which can’t be taught in a classroom.” When students have the opportunity to get out into nature, it concretizes curriculum material about the water cycle or food chains.

Resources and ideas for moving your classroom into the open air are abundant. When browsing on Pinterest, there are endless photos to provide inspiration. In our last newsletter, we included a list of outdoor activities from The Inspired Classroom to get ideas for activities, but the website also has a blog post all about teaching outdoors. It provides  outdoor activity ideas for teachers in all subjects. Lastly, posted an article listing 16 outdoor classroom activities, titled Outdoor Classroom 101! If your school has an outdoor classroom, even standard every day lessons can be moved into the fresh air.

There are over a dozen CLC Quebec schools with outdoor classrooms. If yours isn’t one of them, there are several programs to help you get started. The TD Friends of the Environment Foundation has teamed up with Focus On Forests, a  national forest education program, have created an outdoor classroom development guide to help teachers get started. The Friend of the Environment Foundation also offers a grant to schools and community organizations that need help funding the outdoor garden construction. The grant can be used for all different types of environmental projects, so it is definitely worth checking out.

Quebec City students teach seniors “Internet 101”

The Internet can be a great tool for learning in more ways than one – and not just for our students. At Quebec High School, the students are the ones doing the teaching: the teens’ technical savvy is being put to good use through a series of workshops offered to local seniors on how to navigate the online world. Throughout February and March, nearly 30 students at the Quebec City school have been teaching seniors how to use an iPad, watch videos on YouTube, use Facebook and shop online. The workshops are held within the framework of a leadership class taught by Fannie Marsh at the school, and are the result of a partnership between QHS, Voice of English-speaking Quebec and the Community Learning Centre at the school. Here’s how they work:

  •  The workshops take place (in English) in the high school’s library.
  • They are student-led: at every workshop, two to three students make a short presentation, then put what they are teaching into use.
  • The seniors (usually numbering between five and 10) practice on the school’s computers and iPads.
  • Heather McRae, from Voice of English-speaking Quebec, supervises the workshops.

Marsh told the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph that the initiative empowered the students, especially since they were teaching to people older than themselves. And, although the workshops initially were only planned for February, they were so well-received by both the students and seniors that they extended the series to March. The last workshop, called “Internet 101,” takes place on March 26. To read the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, click here (subscription required).

Centennial Regional High School creates thrift shop for students in need of clothing

Everyone has that one memory of being in school and dealing with the embarrassment of ruined clothes. Falling in mud, spilling food or ripping a hole in the seat of your pants are all situations no one wants to be put in, especially in a school environment where you’re surrounded by peers all day.

To help students get through unfortunate clothing mishaps, Elaine Roberge, who teaches English, History, and POP (Personal Orientation Project) at Centennial Regional High School in Longueuil, QC, put together a thrift shop for students.

The idea came to Elaine last year: “A student ripped her jeans while at school. She came to me looking for help,” she recalls. “I went over to our front office to ask if we had anything we could lend her and there was nothing. I was redirected to the counselling department, who gave me some old, ill-fitting gym shorts.”

Realizing the options weren’t appealing, Elaine lent the student a pair of workout pants she luckily had in her bag. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great of there was somewhere students could go to get clothing if something of this nature happens?’”

The thrift shop isn’t officially open for business yet, but donations are already pouring in. “We simply put an announcement in our school newsletter and on our school Facebook page,” explains Elaine. “People were donating so much that we temporarily had to put a stop to it because our space isn’t big enough!”

Already, the store has provided students with winter jackets, boots, and clothing items of need. “Everything in the thrift store will be for sale to any student in the building, at a reasonable or low cost. However, a student who is in need, due to an emergency or due to a particular home situation, will be given items for free.”

Elaine received a small grant to purchase equipment such as poles, hangers, and brackets. Also in the thrift shop space is a wall covered with pegboards, so hooks for handbags and shelving for shoes are coming in the near future. There are also plans to build a prom section filled with affordable prom attire, as that time of year quickly approaches.

Students and teachers alike are getting involved in many ways, from mural painting to advertising campaigns, store management to volunteer staff. “The response has been extremely positive!” says Elaine. “Both teachers and students love the idea, not to mention the students we are helping are pleased and feel more comfortable accepting help from familiar faces in a familiar environment.”

There are plans for the thrift shop’s grand opening event so be sure to check out the blog in the near future to see those pictures!