Category Archives: Outdoor Inquiry

The Environment As a Classroom

If you conducted a poll amongst my family and friends, it would be unanimous: they would all tell you that I “hate outside”. Not, “She doesn’t like outside,” or “She’s not a fan of outside,” but I guarantee you they would use the word hate. I mean, in the summer, I might hang out on my deck and read a book, or chat on the phone in the sun, but in the winter, you can find me curled up in front of the fireplace in my basement, with four blankets around me. While I wouldn’t say personally that I hate outside, but rather, that I just don’t feel like I get it.  All of the activities that seem to unite my Northern Ontario brethren under a banner of “Look at how outdoorsy we are!” just wasn’t passed along to me. I feel like I’m missing some part of my Greater Sudbury DNA.

The kindergarten curriculum treats outside like another classroom, which you can imagine,

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We explore how to make igloos with molds. Can you make an igloo with cones?

to me, sounds like a special version of my nightmare. And they don’t mean it the way that you might remember the outdoors when you were at school – this is not 20 minutes of recess. This is at least an hour of meaningful outdoor learning. When I came back to kindergarten and found out that the outdoor exploration time of my students would be facilitated by me, there was a certain amount of anxiety. And probably not for the reasons you’re imagining. I wasn’t worried about having to go outside with the kids, but rather, about making that time outside meaningful.

But what does meaningful learning even mean?

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