CBE Students and Staff Explore Nature, All Year Long

Feb. 09, 2018

A guiding vision of the CBE Sustainability team is to “deepen ones relationship with the natural world”. Recently, the team asked: where are the places in this city you can safely explore nature with large groups of students (and teachers, too)? Enter YMCA Calgary. The CBE has partnered with YMCA Riveredge, a field study area beside Sandy Beach Park near Calgary’s beltline. Programming has begun for both CBE students as well as outdoor-themed professional learning for CBE staff.

It was a natural fit for Rob Brown, YMCA Camp Chief Hector GM, who was excited to work with the CBE.
“Our strategic plan specifically mentions the natural world as a vehicle for cultivating social and emotional wellbeing,” Brown said.

The Riveredge site that was used only in summer months is now open for unique ‘Earthplay’ day trips.
This field study opportunity is heavily influenced by the current popularity of Forest Kindergartens and the Reggio Emilia ethos and asks, “How can this pedagogical approach exist with K-12 public schools?” Teachers familiar with emergent curriculum approach to personalizing student learning are given autonomy to plan and lead their student-centered day of outdoor exploration.

"This field trip is remarkable in many ways, namely because it makes learning in the forest, accessible in all seasons in any weather. The day is designed with the teachers positioned as the guide to the students emerging inquiries. Through this experience students gain a deeper connection to the earth, while at the same time they build their confidence and resiliency,' said teacher leaders in the program, Robin Phillips, Liisha Hinder and Mary Haddock.

‘Literacies on the Land’ is a professional learning series described by Heather McKay, CBE Specialist in Research & Strategy. McKay describes the series as, “an invitation for teachers to develop relationships with Land and each other, in order to imagine new ways of inviting students into intentional, joyful literacy learning.”

Throughout the school year, educators come together to experience reading, writing, speaking, and listening within different disciplines, beyond the traditional school walls.

“This work has already transferred back to teachers' work in schools as they take their students into local spaces and become experts while developing and practicing literacies in personalized ways” says McKay.

The latest professional learning sessions connect Career and Technology Foundations (CTF/CTS) with our CBE Indigenous Education Strategy. 30 teachers were guided through the preparation of the traditional Métis meal of Rubaboo stew. Though the physical aspect of preparing food, there are always many other teachings, stories and protocol that were organically shared throughout the process. Teachers were able to rethink how they access their nourishment, and reflect on connection to food and the land. All during the depths of winter, it was a powerful day of oral literacy, traditional ways of knowing, and working and eating in a professional learning community.

We are very excited to continue this tangible example of our CBE Three-year Education Plan. Creating valuable experience and for students and CBE staff learning communities.  Follow CBE Sustainability along at @Serve_CBE and our EarthPlay work with the hashtag #cbeEarthPlay