At the Outdoor Learning Program at South Canoe School we believe that thoughtful and active learning outdoors in a supportive community allows us to connect and relate to others and to the natural world, which together enables and inspires us to act wisely. We believe that Outdoor Learning is most effective when all four dimensions of wellness are exercised: mental, physical, emotional, and social. We believe that learning is about who we are, how to live well with others, and how to grow joy and balance. We believe that nurturing a sense of connection grows compassion and responsibility: to oneself, to others, and to the natural world.
One of the big differences is that we spend a lot of time outside in the woods, rivers, parks, fields and mountains of the Shuswap area – and we mean A LOT. This is nothing like regular school “field trips.” The students spend days working and studying in a particular location, sometimes using tents and tarps for shelter. We are careful to keep kids warm and safe; however, they will spend significant time outdoors when it’s wet and cold. Proper clothes, good nutrition, and physical health are all important for students to benefit from what Outdoor Learning has to offer. On the other hand, we recognize that students may have had little experience of the outdoors, and we work with all kinds of students to help them become comfortable and confident in outdoor settings, and to develop the skills needed to flourish there.
We believe the students benefit from learning from many other people besides classroom teachers. As well as learning from their peers in multi-age groupings, they build relationships with community members, who have unique knowledge of its plants, animals and places, who can share oral histories and traditions (including Indigenous), who can teach the students particular skills and practices, and so on. We highly value participation by parents, grandparents, and other family members. Children at the school spend considerable time with these other kinds of teachers, in many different environments and settings, both natural and social; we believe that places are teachers as well. Of course, we make sure that safety and security are not compromised in these diverse learning experiences.
Students cover the provincial curriculum, but they are expected to learn a great deal more. Usually this involves not just reading or talking about a theme or topic that extends across the curriculum, but experiencing it in some way, exploring it actively, doing or creating something original, and contributing to the well-being of people and places. The values of service, responsibility, intrinsic motivation, and resilience are central to our teaching. We seek to develop students’ imagination and resourcefulness; this often means challenging them more than they would be in other schools. Even the kinds of supplies they need from home will be different: instead of pencils and paper, they may be asking for wading boots, a magnifying glass and a jam jar. The school relies on grants and donations for most of its equipment; sometimes parents will be asked to help fill the gap between our resources and our needs.
A LEARNING COMMUNITY
Families are part of a community of learning and teaching that doesn’t begin and end with the hours of the school day. That doesn’t mean that you have to be available during the day, although we encourage the participation of family members in the teaching program. But we do try to build strong, caring relationships among our families, school staff, and our many community partners. You may be asked to come to evening meetings, weekend events, presentations and shows by the students, and often to work and learn with your child in your own time, in ways that complement what is going on during school hours. We believe that the Outdoor Learning Program is about families learning and flourishing together — and we need your commitment and dedication to make this happen.