Imagine a school where...
Children sit spellbound at the sight of soaring bald eagles or rare fungi, and where nature guides their learning! The Iris Griffith Nature School offers a unique learning environment where on-site classroom sessions are reinforced by extended periods of time spent in the outdoors observing a diversity of habitats and plant and animal species and recording thoughts through art, poetry and prose. Moving the classroom outdoors makes environmental learning tangible and fun, while spending extended periods of time observing and reflecting helps children to form emotional connections with nature and develop feelings of environmental stewardship and responsibility.
What is Nature School?
Elementary and secondary school teachers have the opportunity to move their classrooms to the Nature School for an entire week for hands-on exploration of the Lagoon and neighbouring wetland restoration area. Students are immersed in the rich and diverse habitats for a week-long experience which is a catalyst for further environmental learning at school. The program is modeled on the Open Minds/Campus Calgary Project which has received many awards, including a prestigious Canadian Environment education award.
The Nature School Coordinator, an experienced educator, acts as a facilitator for teachers and students. The Coordinator supports teachers by providing appropriate resources and will assist teachers in planning their weeks at the site. The Coordinator provides a summer workshop of several days for the participating teachers so that they can acquire observation skills and knowledge about the habitats and species at Ruby Lake Lagoon. There are also art and writing components to the workshop.
We've held over 150 Nature School Programs since the Lagoon Society started!
What do Students do at Nature School?
Before the Class Comes: The classroom teacher assists her students to gain the skills of observation, descriptive writing and drawing that will help them to slow down and really learn during their week at the site. They also study content areas that are basic to the specific study that is planned. For instance, if they are learning about wetland ecology and conservation, then the students will research that topic before they come.
At the Site: Each day, the class comes by bus from their school. A classroom in the Interpretive Centre serves as their base for discussions, sharing and for lunch in rainy weather. Every day there are extended observation times of one to three hours during which students in small groups stay at one location to draw and write in their journals. There are also activities led by the teacher with assistance from experts. The teacher may do sessions involving water colour painting, poetry writing, music or drama. There may be specific activities for learning math skills, or creative writing. Parent and Interpretive Centre volunteers accompany the class each day. Local scientists and natural history experts are also available to provide educational talks, activities and resources.
Afterwards at School: Environmental study continues with students conducting further research on their topic. They may complete a culminating action project, for example, examining a local environmental issue, or creating a visual art display of their work, or corresponding with a group of students in another part of the world to learn more about their environment.
The Nature School plays a vital role in helping young Canadian students to develop environmental awareness, values, attitudes, skills and behaviours consistent with sustainable development. By providing opportunities for young people to connect with their local ecology hands on, the School will help children to learn first hand about the plants, animals, and habitats of their local region and the environmental issues that affect them. The future of the special environment of the Sunshine Coast depends to a great extent on having the local population understand and support its significance. This program will ensure that young people will form the personal connections and sense of environmental responsibility and stewardship that is so vital in the years to come.