Take Me Outside: Changing A School Focus & Culture One Outdoor Activity At A Time
My name is Dayna Landry and I am a Grade 4 teacher from Drayton Valley who is passionate about purposeful learning and getting outside. I have been at Wild Rose School Division for 17 years, and Aurora Elementary School for 8. As the Wellness Champion at my school, I wanted to do more to get kids outside in meaningful ways. I wanted to be purposeful in our learning and in our focus on the benefits of nature and the outdoors for students. With support from my Admin team, this is how the Take Me Outside Pilot Project was created.
Step 1: Getting Outside In Meaningful Ways
Each month, classes are challenged to get outside for different learning opportunities. Through cross-curricular connections and an interdisciplinary focus, teachers make this happen. It started small with community walks and exploring our surrounding neighborhoods. It then began to grow and develop into immersing our students into their surrounding environments and local flora and fauna. Science, Math, Language Arts, Social, Physical Education, Health and Art are all covered throughout our K-4 classrooms.
Step 2: Documenting Learning Opportunities
While these learning opportunities are occurring, teachers are documenting the learning by taking pictures and then uploading them to the school shared folder under their class name. At the end of the month, all of the photos are posted in order to celebrate every class’s efforts.
Step 3: Small Token of Appreciation, Priceless Learning Experiences
At the end of every month, a random photo is drawn and that class is the monthly winner. Local sponsors jumped at the chance to support this TMO Pilot Project. The prize is outdoor inspired and there is even a little something to celebrate the teacher for getting their kids “outside”. The winner is posted to our school Facebook page, as well as ALL of the submitted photos. There is also a bulletin board in our main hallway that showcases all the winners as well. Then, we start all over again next month.
Step 4: Where To Go From Here
Each month the number of classes, and submitted photos, has grown. Even with the winter months and colder temperatures, students are getting outside and learning in all different ways. Instead of feeling like an extra, educators have made it part of their weekly, or even daily, lessons. This format will be continued until the end of the school year.
Now, at first, it may look like we are asking more of our education staff. Truly, our teachers were already doing many of these things, they just weren’t documenting them. The key to our success has been starting very small. Each teacher does what they are comfortable with, and grows from there. The only potential challenge has been the ever changing weather. However, through our extreme temperature swings, I have actually seen more diverse and creative ways develop to get kids outside. It may be 10 minutes here or there, but it is happening. The results are happier and healthier kids, who are more focused and ready to learn both during the outdoor learning time, and after.
“The Take Me Outside project has been amazing in our Pre-Kindergarten class! We love going outside to enjoy nature and having experiences we might not have otherwise. If we are overly energetic inside, when we go outside it is guaranteed to regulate everyone. It has been invaluable in our day to day classroom life!”
-Kathleen Wiltzen, Pre-K Teacher Aurora Elementary
“Take me outside has taught me that the outside world is a lot of fun.”
-Ayden, Grade 4 Student
“Take me outside has helped me with refreshing my brain to help me learn.”
-Rowan, Grade 4 Student
“Going outside helps me get away from my feelings like when I’m mad, sad or frustrated.”
-Taylor, Grade 4 Student
My original vision has now become a school wide focus that is completely supported by my school administration. My goal for next year is to provide first hand outdoor learning into every class on a weekly basis at our school, in addition to what is already happening. Another goal is for this pilot project to continue to grow and develop until it becomes fully integrated into each teacher’s pedagogy and way of teaching.