Learning outdoors in 100 Mile

Wild BC benefits students

A unique program is bringing young children out of their classrooms at 100 Mile Elementary School and into the natural environment to learn about the birds, bugs and botany outdoors, and even to connect with their community.

The local Wild BC facilitator, Patricia Spencer, says Taking Learning Outside is one step in the three-year Wild School program that is not only fun and informative, it is an opportunity for fully funded outdoor learning available to classrooms in British Columbia.

The day outdoors on June 15 was also a “celebratory event” to help wind up the end of the school’s first year (2016-17) in the program, she explains.

“All the research shows that kids need to get outside and learn. Children are healthier, happier and smarter if they get outside.”

On June 15, the five “learning stations” where teachers and their classes chose to attend one or two each were set up in the community’s preserves, she explains.

Spencer notes that was enough to fill up all the station instructors’ time and capacity, with 15 classrooms of students pouring through 100 Mile House on the Taking Learning Outside day.

The topics included bird and aquatic studies at the 100 Mile Marsh, as well as nature art, terrestrial bugs and plant explorations in Centennial Park.

Kristi Iverson taught a station about plant explorations down in the park, and Jessica and Roland Totzauer instructed a station on aquatic invertebrates (or water bugs) that was “really cool,” Spencer says, adding her take on it is “bugs, in general, are good.”

Another station in the park was nature art instructed by Barb MacLeod and Anna Craig, while several of the Scout Island Nature Centre staff (from Williams Lake) taught a station on land invertebrates, and there were other stations as well, Spencer explains.

“The intention is about supporting teachers in taking their kids outside and learning about nature and community. So it’s another part of the program, connections to the community, and I think that’s really exciting.”

This is still the first of the three years for this school in the program, but a “great example” for the 100 Mile Elementary Grades K-7 students is that they were already exploring is the Community Place Garden right next door, where they have opportunities to connect with the local society members who can often be found there, she adds.

“The teachers are really happy that their classes can go there, and have their own plots for learning.”

For the nature aspect, she says teachers reported the students were delighted by the wildlife they’d seen, as did those at the bird station Spencer held at the Marsh with the help of Bob Campbell.

“They shook bushes to get the bugs out … and they saw a little muskrat.

“In our bird station, they loved the yellow-headed blackbirds and the red-winged blackbirds. We saw families of geese, they learned how to use binoculars, and they did sound-mapping.”

While the older students made actual directional maps of where they heard sounds, the younger students instead covered their ears for mimicking sensitive “deer-ears,” both of which develops hearing skills important to nature activities like bird-watching, she adds.

The program is supported by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, and Wild BC is part of that.

Spencer explains any school can apply for a three-year Wild School program, but only 25 will be funded at once, which makes 100 Mile House “really lucky” to be included, Spencer says, adding some teachers at this school were already doing some very exciting outdoor education.

“We are supporting them … it is driven by the school, the teachers and the principal. At 100 Mile Elementary, Principal Donna Rodger is very supportive.”

Parent and community volunteers can also really help boost the whole concept of outdoor education and are welcome to help out, she adds.

Wild BC is where school administrators and teachers can go for information and applications, and more information is at http://hctfeducation.ca/wildbc.

Spencer says the children had a lot of fun and they learned a lot on Taking Learning Outside day, which was a “great day” all around.