Laurie Lynn Clark- Outdoor Classrooms/ Nature Immersion as a Restorative Practice
(Photo: Children (4-7 year olds) walk hand in hand to 'Greet a Tree' - PA FOREST DAY program in the Lanark Highlands)
I initiated my work in alternative nature immersion programming and restorative communication practices in the Canadian Rockies (Banff) in 2002 with Ghost River Rediscovery Cultural Outdoor Education Camp where I witnessed people of all ages gather in with intention to rediscover their connection with nature, with oneself and with others. I was honored to listen and learn through Indigenous Elders’ story-telling wisdom around the council circle. Passing the eagle feather and following circle guidelines to hold space for the suspension of judgement and inclusion so all in the circle feel safe to be heard was a practice that i continue today with all my programming.
This circle work is a core routine in the outdoor classroom in Lanark Highlands as well as on elementary school playground with students and teachers. Diversifying the play space on the elementary school playground with mandala circle gardens of native perennials, shrubs and trees offers students and teachers a hands-on curriculum base to rediscover their schoolyard as a space to identify native and common plants to help raise awareness of the rich biodiversity of foods native to this area. Foraging, seed collection/saving and identification are but a few cross-curricular subjects for the school community to practice and learn from seasonally. Bridging outdoor curriculum to seasonal lesson plans assists teachers and students to fall into a natural rhythm in the outdoor classroom.