Sunday, 18 June 2017

Uhill Elementary

Today we starting off by meeting at University Hill Elementary to join in Kate's Foreman's "Outdoor Learning" class. We were welcomed into the Uhill classroom with open arms. When we first arrived we were like a fly on the wall, observing the instructional time and classroom management from Kate.

Kate started off her class by asking the children to reflect on their previous knowledge and to make connections to previous learning from their other classes. The classes focused on learning about slugs, a subject that many students already had a strong background knowledge on. Kate supported the gaps in student learning by oral, visual and written information on the Smartboard in front of the class. The necessary information on slugs and expected behaviour was given to the students in the classroom, before we went outside.

As future educators, we found this time especially interesting. It has showed us that time in the classroom does not have to be isolated from outdoor learning, and instead it can be used as a way to support outdoor learning. For example, the children learnt the features of slugs before going out into nature to find the slugs themselves and identify the features. Had they not had the instructional time in class before hand then the outdoors experience would have been less learning focused. Furthermore, the students are encouraged to let the teacher know with a non-verbal cue when they have made a connection in their mind (by linking their two thumbs and index fingers together). This encourages the students to reflect individually on their learning and independent knowledge.

Once we were outside in Pacific Spirit Park, the goals and expectations for behaviour were clear. The class would be based in their "secret spot" and would be allowed to wander around the park so long as they were within ear shot to hear the "coyote" call from Kate. The children were encouraged to explore, inquire and play until they found slugs. Once a slug was found, the teachers would put a hula hoop around it to keep the boundaries clear. The children loved this time outside!

This teaching method has helped us as teacher candidates to see outdoor learning in action. We learnt the value of setting boundaries and rules to support the learning, to encourage creativity and curiosity, and how to ensure that all students are involved and interested. It was a wonderful experience. There has been tons of learning by the children and us, and we are grateful for the opportunity to attend Uhill!

-Meg and Laurence

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