The community of Dewdney is coming together to help students learn in the classroom and connect with the outdoors.
Dewdney elementary school began implementing its Community Outdoor Recreation and Environment (CORE) program last year and will be expanding it over the next two years to include aboriginal elements, an outdoor classroom and a greenhouse. There are also plans to put in a weather station and area for insects, which will be known as the “insect hotel.”
“We can’t do it all at once,” said Sue McLeod, principal at Dewdney. “We want to be methodical and really try to make sure what we integrate into the curriculum makes sense.”
McLeod started the idea for the program with a $2,000 grant from Whole Kids Foundation last year.
She used the money to build gardens at Dewdney and Deroche schools and encouraged students to learn while digging in the dirt.
Vegetables were planted in the small 4×8 ft. garden box and students watched them grow.
Over the past summer, McLeod, who lives four minutes away from the school, helped maintain the plants, and met with parents and others in the school community to discuss how to “green” the school grounds.
“For me, my passion has always been outdoor education,” said McLeod, who talked to her staff and community about how to make it part of the school identity.
Since then, she has been applying for more funding for the program which will include lessons in the outdoors, on land, and in the water.
Students will learn wilderness survival skills, such as how to start a fire without matches, tie knots, and build a lean-to shelter.
On land, they will learn rock climbing, team building and problem solving skills, and in the water, they will learn to kayak and swim. Grade 6 students will even try summiting the challenging Dewdney Grind trail.
Students will also have lessons inside and a gardening component.
Worm composting in the classroom teaches students about organic waste and gives them the opportunity to watch the worms and see what happens to soil when it breaks down.
“We hope this will be a centre for training for outdoor education,” said McLeod, who also plans to research how the program will help develop social responsibility and academic success in children.