WE ARE DIFFERENT
Perhaps you are looking for alternatives to “regular” schooling. Perhaps you would like your child to experience a diversity of teaching styles. Perhaps you feel the environment is important and would like your child to learn more about it. These could all be good reasons to consider enrolling in the South Canoe Outdoor Learning Program — but they don’t guarantee that it’s the best place for you or your child. We hope this brief introduction to how we work will help you determine in advance whether this is really what you are looking for.
One of the big differences is that we spend a lot of time outside in the woods, parks, fields and wetlands of Salmon Arm – 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. Washrooms are occasionally available, but outhouses are more common. 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 the Outdoor Program 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.
Student safety is essential at the South Canoe Outdoor Learning Program for obvious reasons. Being outdoors and off-site as often as we are, it’s imperative that students be able to act in a safe and respectful way at all times. There are times when students may encounter wildlife or hazards outside and they need to be able to respond quickly to teacher and adult directives. If you are considering the Outdoor Program as an option please consider the following:
- Will my child stay with the group when outdoors?
- Will my child come to the adult when called?
- Can my child navigate uneven terrain?
- Will my child listen to instructions given by the teacher and other adults and comply quickly?
- Does my child want to spend lots of time outside, regardless of the weather conditions (wet, cold, hot, etc.)?
We will never put students in dangerous situations or make them go outside if the weather isn’t conducive to learning, but they need to be able to listen well to staff and do what it asked of them. Again, we know our younger students are just learning so lots of time is spent teaching students what safe practices look like.
As previously mentioned, students will be spending a lot of time outside and off-site.
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 people who have spent their lives in Salmon Arm, who have unique knowledge of its plants, animals and places, who can share oral histories and traditions, 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.
The life of Salmon Arm, in its ever-changing diversity, is the basis for learning at the Outdoor Learning School. 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.