Jun 28, 2012- 1:55 PM
Killarney school a hub for outdoor education
That doesn't mean she wasn't enjoying herself, however.
“I don't like dragonflies, and I don't like anything we caught, but it's cool,” she said.
Sargeant, along with the rest of her Grade 6 class at St. Christopher Catholic Elementary School, attempted to identify the creatures based on pictures on a laminated chart.
The group of 20 students visited the pond June 25 as part of a program put on by the Sudbury Catholic District School Board's Killarney-Shebanoning Environmental Education Centre.
The facility was set up at St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School in Killarney in 2009, following an accommodation review involving the school, which currently has only 14 students.
Recognizing the junior kindergarten to Grade 6 students were too young to take the bus into Greater Sudbury to attend class every day, as older Killarney students do, the board decided to use the school's surplus space for the facility.
Roughly 2,000 students from the board's schools have attended programs at the outdoor education centre this school year. Negotiations are also underway with other local school boards interested in using the facility.
“It is helping the students get an outdoor experience, because some of them perhaps never have. It also allows our students at St. Joseph to interact with other students.”
The school was renovated to house outdoor education resources, as well as sleeping quarters for visiting students. A low-ropes course, sweat lodge and teepee have all been set up in the schoolyard.
As well as its own property, the program makes extensive use of Killarney Provincial Park and other government-owned land.
Local business owners such as Killarney Mountain Lodge have also welcomed the outdoor education centre with open arms, giving the school board permission to use their property for programming.
The facility is run by project leader Brad Blackwell and outdoor education instructor Mel Loranger. They focus on giving students hands-on outdoor learning experiences.
These experiences come in four categories — adventure and team building, environmental studies, Aboriginal education and local heritage.
“All our programs are based on the Ontario curriculum, and we draw from those four categories, and create programs that have students engaged in doing rather than reading the textbook,” Blackwell said.
In many cases, students haven't had much experience with being in the great outdoors, he said.
“Some are actually scared to be outside,” Blackwell, a qualified teacher who works full time out of Killarney, said.
“They're scared to step out of their comfort zone, which is their house or schoolyard, and step into the forest and explore that trail down the street, or the bush in the backyard. Our safety zone is now inside on the couch in front of the TV.
“What we're trying to do is expand that and get students excited about learning outside and excited about playing outside.”
After the St. Christopher students were done with the pond study, and had eaten the famous fish and chips sold out of Herbert Fishieries' red and white bus, they moved onto team-building activities in the St. Joseph schoolyard.
These games included working together to balance a large balance board, moving their bodies through hula-hoops while holding hands and walking across the schoolyard on a large, four-person set of “skis.”
In each case, the key to success is co-operation, he said.
“We do various challenges that get increasingly more and more difficult throughout the program,” Blackwell said.
“After each activity, we debrief, we talk about what were the challenges that we we faced, how we dealt with those challenges, and then what we can take from those challenges and apply to a real-life situation.”
Students also had a chance to try out the low ropes course, walking along a wire about a foot off the ground while swinging themselves along a succession of ropes.
Being able to participate in these activities is a “great experience” for the students, Pierre Dumont, a Grade 6 teacher at St. Christopher, said.
“They get to learn by doing hands-on activities,” he said. “They're outdoors, and they're getting instruction that's different from being in the classroom.
It's just a nice way to spend the day.”
Posted by Arron Pickard