As a concluding aspect to my teaching degree at Brock University, I decided to enroll in the Outdoor Education Certification Program. I was lucky enough (to my surprise), to have the foresight back in January, to identify this opportunity as something I would learn a great deal from. I did however, underestimate what it would teach me or how it would begin to shift my life in a direction that apparently I just needed a little push to get started in.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have learned many new things about the environment, about Canadian history (specifically Aboriginal origins, life and culture), various plants and their medicinal properties, what a Meromictic Lake is and more about how glaciers formed the escarpment.
I also, figured out some particular things about myself as a teacher. I always thought of school field trips as informative, educational and a way to get out of the classroom environment to mix things up a little (for the students and the teacher!). I did realize the great value in them but before this experience, not quite to the extent that I will value them now as a teacher with my own class.
About a month ago, I attended a webinar entitled:
Green Teacher Webinar: "Shades of Green: Developing Artistic Approaches to Environmental Education"
with Hilary Inwood. http://greenteacherwebinarinwood.eventbrite.com/
The Webinar in combination with my hands-on experience at Crawford Lake Conservation area have confirmed for me that learning from nature (including human contributions/impacts to/on the environment) partnered with creativity-rich methodologies is such a great way for students to solidify concepts of learning. Furthermore, and this is what I learned specifically from my experience, is that connecting/re-connecting with the natural world is a way to be self-reflective and more importantly self-reflexive.
To realize that as humans were are part of the natural world and thus it is a part of us. We are shaped by, learn from and adapt to and with one another. The only flaw in this reciprocity is that without it, WE would not survive, without us the natural world would flourish.
I think at times, regular acknowledgement of this relationship can get lost when there are so many more things to be thinking, talking, learning and teaching about. However, I think now more than ever, that this particular subject is one of the most important things we as teachers should be thinking, talking, learning and teaching about.
Throughout my experience in Outdoor Ed. I took many photographs and did many sketches of the things around me. I will encourage my students to do the same and often. I found that this process helped to solidify my learning (across many subject areas) as well as to expand on it, connect with it (metacognition) and change my thinking (evaluating/synthesizing). Seems to me as a teacher, a very effective way of going about the teaching/learning process.
Since this experience, I have made outdoor activity and learning a regular part of mine and my family's life. To step back, connect and recognize the outside world that sustains us.
Such a simple thing, but I am so glad I now "Take it Outside".