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Green learning in the great outdoors

Our students show up as learners in their own unique ways. Some kids enjoy storytime. Other kids want to get their hands messy during a good art project. And some kids wanna work with a buddy!

This Earth Day (and this year), the dedicated staff at Connaught Heights Elementary have worked to ensure outdoor and nature-based learning is a fundamental part of each child’s education no matter how a student learns.

Celebrating our environment

On the Friday before Earth Day, kids arrived at school as usual … but soon their day transformed into an interactive outdoor learning adventure. Teachers had prepared multiple unique and varied stations throughout the school, some indoors and others sprawling into the surrounding gardens.

These stations each had their own specific learning activity, all of them related to nature. The goal? To help kids develop a deeper understanding of and relationship to the plants and animals that fill the world around them.

Community was also a very central focus, as teachers stressed the importance of working together to change our world for the better.

At one station, the kids were paired up for a scavenger hunt around the school鈥檚 central courtyard. Youngsters poked their heads around trees and posts, looking for spider-homes and beautiful flowers. Part of their job was to make detailed observations as they searched聽 teaching the importance of word choice and vocabulary!

At another station, students got to highlight their artistic side. They pressed flowers onto card stock, creating pretty handmade cards using the plants … introducing how versatile plants can be!

A third station saw students gathered in the gymnasium to learn about climate change through science experiments. Demonstrations were done by teachers, with explanations that connected the scientific concepts to the ways our climate is changing.

These are just a handful of the diverse activities the kids cycled through for this Earth Day!

A year in the making

These outdoor lessons are born from a year-long coordinated effort by Connaught Heights’ staff. Earth Day itself has been planned for weeks, if not months, but these lessons have built on what students have also slowly and continuously been introduced to throughout the year, and through their lessons around the garden. In fact, teachers have been holding gratitude circles and storytime outside since the start of the school year, as one way to help achieve their school learning plan goals.

Climate action has also been an integral theme throughout the school year. Teachers have been encouraging and supporting students to be stewards of their environment lessons students have eagerly taken on and a passion that’s clearly reflected in their own interests. Throughout the year students have learned how to incorporate eco-friendly choices into their day-to-day actions, with families participating and supporting however possible.

As their Earth Day celebrations came to a close, the whole of Connaught Heights Elementary gathered in the gym to recount the lessons shared this year, to give thanks to all participating students and families, and to honour their movement to greener learning.

Looking to the future

But the passion for all things green doesn’t end with Earth Day.

On April 28th, between 3:00 and 5:00 pm, the kids will hold a student-organized Eco-Fair … selling handmade goodies from the community, with some even made by students! All the items will be made from repurposed materials with proceeds going to a local non-profit!

This event is open to the whole community, so we hope to see you there!

Jennifer Scorda, the principal of Connaught Heights Elementary, stressed that each of these pieces are part of a larger, ongoing process of building a relationship to nature and to the land. They are lessons inspired by the Indigenous Ways of Knowing, and driven by a passion in the community to take Climate Action seriously. They are lessons aimed at making sure each and every student knows that they have a role in helping shape the kind of present and future they want.

That theme of connection and empowerment was perhaps most quintessentially represented in a station that was run by our district’s Manager of Early Education and Childcare, Ileana Neilson. Students sat under a tree with Ileana as they read a book about protecting the world for themselves, and for future generations … reflecting on the cyclical nature of that relationship as the tree protected them from the rain聽 falling around them (rain that could not dampen their bright green spirits).