Two thumbs up for outdoor education

“I was born to be in the wild. I loved it.”

Grade 6 student Nevaeh puts into words how we all feel when we pause in wonder at the miniscule worlds under our feet, the majestic views above our heads, and the magic found outdoors all around us. 

Through Classroom with Outdoors, Wildsight Educators bring students on a full day field trip to learn about the great outdoors through hands-on learning. Across the Columbia Basin, 25 classes participated in a Classroom with Outdoors experience this fall, including Nevaeh’s class in Castlegar’s Twin Rivers School. Teacher Kate Running valued the program and how it engaged her students.

“By educating our students about the importance of nature and providing authentic, inquiry based outdoor educational experiences that they enjoy, we are building on the important value of respecting and taking care of our planet and each other,” says Ms. Running. “They will grow to share this awareness and value with others. Classroom with Outdoors is providing amazing experiences for youth that affect their lives and the communities around them in such a positive way!”

Nevaeh’s peers found joy and beauty around them in the experience too.

“I liked walking around in the forest. It was full of colourful leaves,” says Sage, while Tahren admits: “I just liked that we got to get outside!”

Students from Golden’s Lady Grey Elementary. Photo: Carrie Ferguson


Students at Golden’s Lady Grey Elementary explored macroinvertebrates in a wetland area, and investigated herbology  — the magic of plants — along the way. 

“We talked about how macroinvertebrates were consumers, that they have exoskeletons (hard stuff on the outside & squishy stuff on the inside) in comparison to us who have our skeletons on the inside & our squishy stuff (organs etc) on the outside,” explains educator Jessie Caza. 

The class learned about how plants produce their own food (sugars) through photosynthesis, and small groups were assigned a plant, given information on that plant’s cool uses (historically & current) and then had to teach the other groups about that plant. 

Teacher Ms. Sinclair says the program touched on some very important ideas.

“We need students to have a deep understanding of the grave problems we/they face in the very near future,” she says. “As a teacher, I believe the program really speaks to the core competencies (personal and social, communication, thinking) — helping students make good choices through education!”

Students from Kimberley’s McKim Middle School


Ms. McRae’s Grade 4 class in Kimberley’s McKim School explored the grassland ecosystem at Wycliffe Butte, where they learned about some of the endangered critters that rely on grasslands such as badgers and long-billed curlew, and how critical these grasslands are as winter range for all our large neighbours (elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer). They also heard about some of the threats to our dwindling grasslands (one of the most endangered ecosystems on the planet, and here in the Kootenays), and how important they are for diversity around the Kootenays.

“Most importantly, we learned about how we can protect our local grasslands by staying on trails, practicing leave no trace principles, and learning more about the unique flora and fauna of these special ecosystems,” says Educator Dave Quinn. “We also learned about some of the cool adaptations of grasslands species, like badgers who are super-diggers to help them find their favourite ground squirrel meals, bunchgrass whose roots can delve up to 10 feet below the surface to find water, and ponderosa pine whose thick bark and lack of lower branches help it survive frequent grass fires that are key to grassland maintenance and survival!”

Students from Revelstoke’s Arrow Lakes Elementary


Through their Columbia wetlands field trip, Revelstoke’s Arrow Heights Elementary students learned about teamwork, just like the parts of an ecosystem that work together to keep it healthy. Ms. Haworth’s Grade 4 class found western toads, fisher spiders, snails, a garter snake, grasshoppers and many different birds.

“It was magical,” reflects Educator Jade Harvey-Berrill.

Kids discovered the wonder in their wetland ecosystem and taught their peers about their own special part of the system.

 “Woooah,” gushed student Emmy. ‘80 different types of birds are fed by one ash tree? That’s so cool!”

The class also undertook some water science studies; they discovered how special our wetlands are and how we need to protect them in the future.

When asked at the end to give a thumbs up if they had a good time, one student added, “How about both thumbs up if you had the most excellent time?” Double thumbs were seen across the board.

We think Ms. Haworth’s class got it right: when we get to explore the amazing outdoors and learn about the ecosystems around us, it’s double thumbs up for us too! 

We couldn’t do programs like Classroom with Outdoors without the generous support of our funders, including the Columbia Basin Trust, Columbia Power Corporation, Consecon Foundation, the Government of Canada, Keefer Ecological Services Ltd., Kootenay Co-op, the Osprey Community Foundation, Teck Trail, the Province of British Columbia, Copernicus Education Products; and all of our individual donors. Thank you!