Covid Silver Lining - Taking Learning Outside
Parveen Loodu & Darcy Dufresne

                                                     Kindies love to work outside!

While we are all overly familiar with the challenges that Covid-19 has brought, there are also (believe it or not) some benefits as we’ve shifted to new ways of doing things to accommodate health and safety procedures related to the pandemic.

In order to accommodate more opportunities for outdoor learning, in mid-October Southridge set up two 20 x 30 feet outdoor learning tents on our back field. The purpose of the tents is to have a sheltered space where students and teachers can engage in learning outside in the fresh air – even in inclement weather. There are milk crates in the tent to allow for flexible seating or mini table tops.

Ms. Dufresne, Grade 1 teacher has enjoyed taking advantage of the outdoor learning space with her class, so we asked her to provide some reflections:

Why do you and your students enjoy using the space?

We love the outdoors because it is a whole-sensory experience. It feels like freedom, possibility, wonder, and our curiosity and excitement are stimulated in a natural environment. We get to learn about place and develop empathy and a caring relationship to our natural world. Our goal is to foster a lifelong, compassionate relationship to all living things.

In your opinion, what are some of the benefits of learning outside?

Extensive research from around the world and in various disciplines (education, psychology, medicine)  has clearly shown physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being are essential to developing strong research, self-management, communication, social, and thinking skills. All of these skills are required to be a well-rounded inquirer that will take action and make a positive difference in our world as well as finding a life's purpose beyond 'doing school'.

What are some of the activities you have engaged in with your class in the tents?

Slowing down to make and record careful observations and wonderings, using various tools such as magnifying glasses, binoculars and paying attention through our senses. Seeking knowledge about the way our natural world works, its patterns, its history, and its interconnectedness, creates fond memories of childhood, personal connections, and storytelling. We also used it as a place to relax and as a stage to film a happy holiday song to connect with our local elders in a care home.

Any other thoughts?

It has been an exciting beginning to a journey toward embedding the outdoors as an integral learning environment for our students. We look forward to exploring ways to bring our learning from the indoors to the ever-changing, wonderous outdoors as much as possible!

Drama 10 students sharing work in the outdoor learning space

The outdoor learning tents have provided new and simple learning spaces for various grades’ classes, garden learning, story time, science-based explorations, discussions, and engaging with guest speakers in a safe way.

Contributed by Parveen Loodu, Communications & Marketing and Darcy Dufresne, Junior School PYP Teacher; Grade 1