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Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority

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​​Two young girls in blue t-shirts are working to built a large shelter with logs and sticks.

Education Reimagined

​​The Education team has been hard at work reimagining its outdoor education program. 

There is a growing movement in Education which promotes the idea that age-appropriate outdoor learning is most effective when students engage in multiple outdoor experiences at every grade level. This integrated approach includes the traditional classroom learning alongside schoolyard and local greenspace experiences. The result is a deeper and richer learning experience for students and teachers.

Creating Outdoor Classrooms 

Reimagining Outdoor Education starts with a creative outdoor space. In 2018 we oversaw the completion of five “Schoolscaping” pilot projects. The schools selected, each had their own unique property management issues (flooding, lack of shade, etc.) that hindered opportunities for outdoor learning. Once selected, LSRCA staff were welcomed by students and given a schoolyard tour while the team completed a site assessment. Surveys were then sent out to all of the students and teachers in order to determine how different areas in the schoolyards were being used and what other natural features they were interested in. 

Based on the information received, LSRCA staff made recommendations for how the schoolyard could be enhanced. Grant money from different sources helped complete the project and teachers were then provided with an opportunity to learn more about how to effectively take advantage of the outdoor space to maximize the outdoor learning experience for their students. 

Expanding Experiential Learning 

For years, grade four and seven students would hop on a bus and travel to our Nature Centre at Scanlon Creek for a day of outdoor education. These experiences were great, but they were isolated learning opportunities. In 2017, Simcoe County District School Board set out to change that. 

The progressive school board determined that it would be better for all grades to have outdoor learning experiences and LSRCA’s Education team would provide focused programming for grade four students. Now, in addition to one trip to the Nature Centre, students would also receive two 100-minute classroom visits at their school from an LSRCA Education team member, where learning can happen both in the classroom and the schoolyard. 

Simcoe County District School Board is leading the way in making Outdoor Education a priority and we’re excited to be a part of it. 

Thinking Outside the Box 

A photo of an augmented reality sandbox. Different elevations are indicated by different colours in the sanbox.This year, our Geographic Information Systems (GIS) team used their creativity and technical savvy to build a brand new educational tool—an Augmented Reality Sandbox. This sandbox uses a combination of sand and sensors to teach students about topography, geography, natural science and how the watershed functions. 

By allowing students to literally dig their hands into a sand box, they are able to see how elevation changes on the land affect what happens to water. The fully mobile, interactive sandbox hit the road and was on display at the annual York Region Children’s Water Festival at Bruce’s Mill, but has now made its home at our Nature Centre at Scanlon Creek.

Badge Blitz at Scanlon 

In an effort to reach out to new community groups, the Education team extended an invitation to local Girl Guides and Boy Scouts to attend the first-ever Badge Blitz. Three different age groups were invited to participate in the fun-filled weekend event to connect troops with the outdoors. Over 30 children attended and engaged in activities like birding and building shelters, allowing them to work towards earning badges.

Forest School 

Home schoolers and their parents visited Scanlon Creek for four weekly afternoon sessions to learn in nature. Activities focused on active, risky play and growth in selfconfidence. A daily agenda and theme gave some structure, but each day was ultimately driven by the curiosities and creativity of the children. The program provided an opportunity and a safe place to learn and test boundaries. Overwhelmingly positive feedback has prompted the Education team to explore growing the program in 2019.​​​​