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Professional Development Workshop for Educators at Guelph Outdoor School

Nature Connection programs differ from outdoor education curriculum as teachers work towards attribute based nature rich experiences over subject based information rich curriculum. Photo above: Guelph Outdoor School Professional Development Workshop for Educators.

Nature Connection Programs embrace and encourage each student's natural cycle of learning. Nature Connection experiential learning approach essentially fosters the resilience of high cognitive functioning in the outdoor classroom. Experiential learning is a process of learning through experiences and reflection — through hands-on learning activities as opposed to absorbing content delivered at the front of a classroom.

Nature Connection programs differ from outdoor education curriculum as teachers work towards attribute based nature rich experiences over subject based information rich curriculum.

How? Teachers role model experiential learning strategies supported by the art of questioning where they emphasize questions over answers. This approach emphasizes nature rich content and is less focused on information rich subject matter. Meeting the needs and mentoring a diversity of attributes, as opposed to knowledge sets, will prime each mind for intentional learning supported by an inquisitive focus and deepened sense of curiosity.

Teachers role model as mentors through listening and observing the child's needs and by asking questions coming from a place of authenticity. Engaging the student's mind with questions encourages them to bring their interests back to the indoor classroom for follow-up and further research. When teachers present themselves as fellow learners through authentic questioning and curiosity, they become an integral part of stimulating the students' fervour for learning. Teachers also practice authenticity when revealing that they do not have all the answers.

Toronto Star article written by Brandie Weikle; 'Preparing kids for the future means learning outside the classroom' ( By Brandie Weikle- Special to the Star/), interviews Guelph Outdoor School Founder- Christopher Green who brings children outdoors to learn in the invisible classroom. The article also introduces a centrally assigned principal (Felson) who oversees nature immersion experiential learning for the Toronto District School Board.

Guelph Outdoor School Founder, Christopher Green states; “If a child is spending one day a week doing deep nature immersion mentorship and being mentored into connecting with the natural world, then all sorts of magic is going to happen with their other endeavours.”

'Felson states that these kinds of (nature connection experiential learning) programs are helping to build better workers. "We really feel technological education fits well with our emphasis on those skills employers are looking for,” said Felsen. “Whether it be with traditional technologies, such as automotive or construction, or with new technologies like computer engineering, we think that what’s common is the emphasis on things like problem solving, which is one of the global competencies we’re trying to build. In one recent example, elementary students explored the question of why bees are dying, said Felsen. “The students learned about what plants are from this area that would attract bees. That’s an important part of experiential learning that takes them out of the regular classroom.”'

Algonquin College ECE Program (Perth Campus) is partnering with UCDSB to naturalize a playground's outdoor classroom as well as offer parent and child nature immersion workshops on the school playground.

CALLING ALL VOLUNTEERS to help plant polycultures in Drummond Central Outdoor Classroom.

On June 4th, 2019- Laurie Lynn Clark, ECE/Outdoor Educator, leads the parents and children through her outdoor classroom design, based on Cardinal Direction orientation. Parent and child empathy workshops in the outdoor classroom introduces cardinal directions, annual and perennial gardens and core routine nature connection activities on the playground. The goal of the workshop is to provide parents and children with nature based learning activities so they are comfortable in practicing in their own back yard.

The Outdoor Classroom design involves planting polycultures of perennials in cardinal direction locations on the playground with a focus of native medicinal/edible flora. As students and teachers navigate themselves around the cardinal directions on the playground, mathematical concepts like spatial reasoning and orientation may be accessed by the students daily through outdoor nature immersion classes or by simply experiencing the gardens during recess play. Through the nature connection mentorship approach, through inquiry and experiential pedagogical strategies, through naturalizing the school playground as an outdoor classroom and by including the parents alongside students, teachers and administrators in these programs- the entire school community benefits and becomes one step closer to being a nature connected community.

Written by Laurie Lynn Clark

Outdoor Educator, Nature Immersion Programs

Restorative Communication for Youth