As we welcome winter, we welcome a new opportunity to get students outside for learning. Winter provides an amazing platform for outdoor learning and fun. Did you know that every winter, at least one septillion snowflakes (that’s a one with twenty-four zeroes) fall from the sky? Perhaps it’s because students all over the East and West Kootenays are performing their best snow dance and snowflake shuffles! And did you know that all of the plants and animals that live in our backyards have incredible super powers to allow them to survive our cold winters?
Setting the stage
Build up excitement for your winter exploration by reading a winter themed book, asking about student “wonders” or using a class visual. Leah Betchner shared Do Frogs Drink Hot Chocolate with her students at Kootenay Christian Academy: “Kids love this story and the sort of silly ways that it suggests animals keep warm. They predict with each new animal if the suggestion is accurate and then we read the facts to support the correct answer.”
Find more ideas on how to set the stage for your nature outing.
Caren Nagao from Alexander Park Elementary incorporated Indigenous ideas into their sit spot practice: “We visited our adopted trees and looked for changes since last visit. We spent time considering what we are thankful for with regards to the land. We then practiced an Indigenous land acknowledgement that included the ideas.”
Continue building your sit spot practice with these ideas.
Sensory wake up
Choose one or more senses to focus on to help learners connect to what’s happening around them and how it might be different from their last nature outing. Molly Butler from Columbia Park Elementary had her students focus on their sense of smell: “When we got out to our outdoor meeting spot, I had students sit down, cover their eyes and I took around some items for them to smell and then guess what it was (cedar needles etc). They love guessing! We got lots of non-specific answers – tree branch, tree needles etc. And we then discussed whether all tree needles smell the same, or if they might smell different. We tested our theory with some hemlock needles and some fir needles.” Wake up the senses!
Exploration and investigation
A white snowy canvas can provide endless opportunities to explore and investigate the seasonal changes that winter brings. A grade one teacher at Yaqan Nukiy School took her students on a microhike– each child had a small magnifying glass and a piece of string. They placed the string somewhere – ground, tree trunk, under branches etc. and used the magnifying glass to “walk” along the string path!
Caren Nagao used a game to help her learners recall concepts that they have been studying since September: “We played Simon Says but with various plants or features that we have taught since September, e.g. touch a trunk, a fir, a sign of season change etc.” Find more inspirations to get moving with these games and activities.
Reflection and extension
Make sure to include time in your outing for your learners to reflect on their wonders. Spend time writing or drawing about what they saw and learned and what might be different the next time they are in their outdoor classroom. Find other ideas on how to reflect and share.