A Seasonal Learning Journey

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Adorned in seasonal bling and full of fall flare, I (Lady Autumn) awaited a class full of kindergarten students to arrive at their outdoor classroom. The wonder and excitement of these little learners grew as they approached where I sat perched on a rock in an orange tutu and leafy crown. Before the program had even started, they were hooked.

Nature Through the Seasons is a year-long seasonal learning journey and mentorship opportunity for K-3 students and teachers throughout the Columbia Basin. While teachers are grappling with heavier than normal work loads and trying to keep up with COVID-19 guidelines, Wildsight is providing solace for kids, and turning to Mother Nature to guide the learning. Educators, often dressed up in seasonal garb, come four times throughout the year, with each visit celebrating the change of the seasons.

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” -Rachel Carson

We want students, and their teachers, to become grounded in outdoor learning. We do that through repeated exposure, experiences, and engagement throughout the year, including offering resources to teachers to further their student’s outdoor education.

Before COVID, educators would begin and end their Nature Through the Seasons program in the classroom by introducing a program “hook”– maybe a basket or suitcase full of special exploration items, like magnifiers, photos, and books. This year, with COVID restrictions limiting our usual teaching methods, we needed to get a bit more creative with how we introduced the program. For example, last week at Windermere Elementary, grade 2-3 students went on a book reading walk. Wildsight Educator Jessie Caza used resources from the Invermere library to set up a walking book reading of “Blue Burt and Wiggles,” a sweet story of two friends with very different ways of adapting to the changing seasons.

“The kids LOVED running to the next page. The adults LOVED the great conversations we engaged the students in – the best one being “where did our summer go?” which led to an insightful conversation on how the students thought seasons happened and then a modelling of how seasons come about,” said Jessie Cazza, Wildsight Educator in Invermere. “Lastly, a flock of geese flew over seconds after we read a page that talked about all the birds flying south – it was such great timing!”

Jess Williams teaches her students about animal adaptations during their fall Nature Through the Seasons program

Prop and material sharing during our education programs has become quite limited due to COVID-19 guidelines. Despite this, Wildsight educators always have magic and creativity tucked up our sleeves to engage students while ensuring we maintain social distancing. Our educator in Rossland, Jess Williams, brought some furry friends with her to help tell the story of how animals prepare for the winter. Chippy the Chipmunk, Mr. Berry the Bear, and Bella the Bat each represented a seasonal animal strategy for survival.

“The puppets talked about how they feel and how their bodies are for the changing seasons, especially as days get shorter and colder,” explains Jess Williams, an educator based in Rossland.

Jess Williams brings magic and wonder to her students through her seasonal scientist character.

Most educators have now delivered their fall Nature Through the Seasons program, which once again booked up quickly by teachers eager to access this resource for their students. The mentoring and support from Wildsight will continue as teachers commit to taking their students outside for learning every month. Resources such as seasonal newsletters full of ideas to incorporate curriculum (and fun!) into outdoor classroom settings are sent to teachers throughout the year, and educators also provide one-on-one mentoring opportunities to their teachers. Some educators might even surprise their students with a virtual visit.

As we transition into winter, keep your eyes out for rosy cheeked children learning from, and in, the wild places we call home. Look closely, and you may even spot one of our sprightly seasonal fairies!

We’d like to thank our generous funders including Columbia Basin Trust, Consecon FoundationProvince of BC, Teck Coal, Community Foundation of the Kootenay Rockies as well as the many individual donors who give to make programs like this possible. If you want to see more programs like Nature Through the Seasons, donate today.