picture of trees in winter covered in snow

Embracing the Chill: The Crucial Role of Winter Outdoor Learning for Kids

Picture by Iyanuoluwa Akinrinola

The resource, “How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years,” states that Educators should pay heed to the environment to ensure that their beliefs and values about children and learning are represented in the space. It goes on to say that these benefits occur especially within children’s connections to and interactions with the natural world because the growing body of research suggests that connecting to the natural world contributes to children’s well-being in many ways.

The idea of taking education outdoors might seem counterintuitive as winter blankets the world in a glistening layer of snow. However, the benefits of outdoor learning in winter for kids are as vast as the snowy landscapes. Beyond the cozy confines of the classroom, the winter wonderland serves as a rich and dynamic setting for valuable educational experiences.

Winter transforms the outdoors into an expansive classroom, providing a unique and captivating environment for learning. The crisp air, frost-kissed trees, and snow-covered landscapes offer a sensory-rich experience that engages children on a different level. It’s a living, breathing textbook where lessons extend far beyond the pages of a conventional workbook.

In the winter, the great outdoors becomes a playground for physical activity. Engaging in winter sports, building snowmen, or simply stomping through the snow provides an excellent way for kids to stay active and healthy. The invigorating cold air can also boost their immune systems and contribute to overall well-being. Winter also offers a prime opportunity for hands-on scientific exploration. Kids can observe the unique properties of snow and ice, explore changes in the natural environment, and learn about the fascinating adaptations of plants and animals to the cold season. Outdoor winter activities can serve as a gateway to lessons in the sciences: chemistry, physics, biology, and environmental science.

Experiencing and adapting to winter conditions fosters resilience in children. From dressing appropriately for the weather to problem-solving in snow-related challenges, outdoor winter learning instills a sense of adaptability and perseverance. These life skills extend beyond the classroom, preparing kids to face challenges confidently. Similarly, winter’s white canvas sparks creativity in young minds. Whether crafting intricate snow sculptures, composing winter-themed poems, or capturing the season’s beauty through art, outdoor winter learning encourages imaginative expression. The open-air setting inspires fresh perspectives and allows children to connect with their creative instincts.

Outdoor winter activities provide a social arena for kids to collaborate, communicate, and develop interpersonal skills. Building snow forts, organizing winter games, or engaging in collaborative projects foster teamwork and camaraderie. The shared experience of conquering winter challenges creates lasting bonds among peers. Connecting children with nature in winter lays the groundwork for environmental stewardship. Understanding the seasonal cycles, appreciating the delicate balance of ecosystems, and witnessing the impact of human activities on the environment instill a sense of responsibility towards nature.

The winter landscape is not a barrier to learning; it is an expansive canvas waiting to be explored. Outdoor learning in winter for kids is a holistic approach that nurtures physical health, scientific curiosity, resilience, creativity, social skills, and environmental awareness. As educators, let’s embrace the chill and open the doors to a world of educational opportunities extending far beyond the confines of indoor classrooms. Winter is not just a season; it’s a classroom waiting to be discovered.

Ideas for Learning in June

June is finally upon us. It might just be me but I sometimes find it hard to compete with the warm weather and the idea that summer is fast approaching. With cut-off dates for report cards set for early June in many boards across Ontario, keeping the learning going all month long can be challenging. In this post, I’m sharing some ideas that might make things a little easier as we work towards keeping learners engaged over the last few weeks of the school year.

Literacy – Podcasts

I’m a huge fan of listening to podcasts and over the years, I’ve seen first-hand how much students also enjoy listening to them. Here’s a list of some podcasts that I have listened to with students that have been a hit:

Six Minutes

The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel

The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian

Podcast listening is great but you might be wondering what else you might do beyond listening. 

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Have students draw what they hear as they listen to an episode of a podcast. In some series, the podcast is describing the setting. Have students draw what they imagine the setting would look like. For example, Mars’ room or The Marlowe 280 Interplanetary Exploratory Space Station where Finn and his friends live. 
  2. Have students make predictions and explain why they made their predictions. When finished, ask them to compare what they thought would happen to what really happened.
  3. Have students consider one thing that they might change in an episode and share how that might affect future episodes or change the entire podcast.
  4. Have students compare themselves to a character. How are they similar? How are they different? 
  5. In most of the above podcasts, there’s some form of tech involved. Give students materials and have them build a prototype of the tech. What improvements would they add to solve a particular problem for one of the characters in the podcast?

The ideas are endless! Take a listen and see what you and your students might come up with!

Literacy – What’s Going On in This Picture?

I’ve been a long-time fan of The New York Times’ What’s Going on in This Picture? Simply put, this site is a compilation of interesting New York Times images that have been stripped of their captions, and an invitation to students to discuss them by answering 3 questions:

  1. What is going on in this picture?
  2. What do you see that makes you say that?
  3. What more can you find?

When I have done these with students in the past, I’ve found that in the beginning, students are quick to provide an answer without sharing much of the reasoning behind their answer but as time goes on, I have found that many students take the time to really analyze the picture so as to justify their responses. I found this simple activity a great way to get the day started and get students thinking about inferences. 

Numeracy – Which One Doesn’t Belong?

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of math and love a great math talk. When students are able to share what they know or are able to justify their thinking, I get excited. Which One Doesn’t Belong offers a great opportunity for students to share their thinking around a variety of Math concepts, often leading to some rich conversations as they battle it out to ultimately prove, which one doesn’t belong. In the past, I have printed out images from the site and added them to chart paper or to the whiteboard for students to come up and add their thoughts and ideas. Because the only way to get a wrong answer is to not justify your thinking, I’ve found that some of my most reluctant mathematicians are eager to participate and are often the first to write out their stickie notes and add them to the image that doesn’t belong.   

Numeracy – Coding

There are so many resources out there for coding. From guided activities on Code.org to lessons in Minecraft, there are so many possibilities for helping students to solve problems and create computational representations of mathematical situations by writing and executing code.  Recently, I was working with a group of grade 5 students who were working through the Artemis: Rocket Build. While the Educator Guide was super helpful, it was really my students who were running the show and helping guide me through some of the builds. I currently have a group of grade 4/5 students who are working in Minecraft to build their own town based on the work that they are doing with their classroom teacher for Social Studies. Don’t have access to tech? No worries, Code.org has some great unplugged coding videos and activities that you can try with students. Check them out here

Science – Scavenger Hunts

Create a simple scavenger hunt for your students with items found in the schoolyard or a local park and get students outside, checking out nature. I’ve done this with students from kindergarten to grade 5 and no matter the age, finding something out in nature and taking the time to explore it, is pretty cool. 

Science – Planting

The kindergarten students this year had a blast planting their Grass Heads. In classes around our school, students have been planting seeds and beans and have been recording observations and taking measurements. Some classes have been growing lettuce from existing lettuce heads while others have been doing experiments where plants are put in a variety of conditions to see what happens. Our kindergarten students have also been out planting in our garden with parent volunteers. Consider planting with students. Spring is a great time for planting as things are sprouting all around us. 

Physical Education – Student-Led Workout Circuits

Early in the pandemic, while teaching online, my students and I got really creative in designing our Physical Education classes. We were already used to student facilitators for our activities so when we went online, students were eager to create great lessons to keep the movement going from home. Students were asked to create short 15-minute workouts that they could challenge their peers with. The results were amazing. I haven’t taught Physical Education since we’ve been back in school but this is definitely one thing that I would incorporate if ever I teach Physical Education again.

French – Créez votre monstre

I recently facilitated a workshop for ETFO’s FSL Conference and shared this idea with teachers. Participants were asked to create their own monster using found materials and they had the opportunity to write 4 short sentences about their monster. From there, they used Adobe Express to create short videos about their monster. Half the fun was in building the monster and getting the opportunity to create. We used Adobe Express to create short videos but if you have access to tech, there are so many possibilities of what you might do. Some teachers mentioned using Flip while others considered recording short videos and including them in a Google Slides presentation. Why not create and have fun in the last month of your FSL program? 

I hope that there’s something here that might be of help as you navigate these last few weeks. Wishing you all the best for a wonderful end of the year!

love(s)

Image generated by DALL-E 2 with prompts from author
Image generated by DALL-E 2 with prompts from author

love…”what is it good for?”
love…”exciting and new.”
love…means nothing to a tennis player

L O V E is an often overused word

Keep reading if you used the word ‘love’ somewhere in a conversation today.
Here are some examples: “I love this song.” “Do you love this sweater?” “Wow, do I love this book.” “Bye mom. I love you.” I could go on because the very air around us abounds in love throughout the day at school, but so often it seems that we miss the opportunities to them all in, let alone enjoy them.

Where are you going here Gourley?

Last week the first talk from TED 2023 was shared by Angus Hervey (click link) and it serves as the inspiration for this post.* As you know I can dig into some uncomfortable spaces here and felt the need to spread a little sunshine after hearing the ideas worth spreading from this year’s TED.

It’s April, late April to be precise. Spring is somewhere in the air. I know because I felt it at the beginning of the month with a week of unseasonally warm days. I loved how some were complaining that it was too hot. I also loved not having to scrape frost off of my windshield or see remnants of blizzards past on my lawn as well. I even put away my super warm toque until next year. I loved seeing the first flowers poking through the brown matted grass. I love how nature keeps its own time. With a spring in my steps I have found it really easy to get up before the alarm clock as light and warmth pour into my room to start the day.

I love knowing that the we will keep getting closer to the sun for a couple more months. I love feeling the change of seasons and the decisions being made to remove layers of sweaters, winter boots, hats and gloves. I love the fresh and hearing the birds sharing their songs with me each morning. I love how having windows open allows for nature to visit the classroom. I love how learning spaces can be expanded exponentially when more time outdoors is included. Math, Phys Ed, Social Studies, Science, and every other subject just got a lot more fresh.

I love how students get so excited to be taking the learning outdoors. I love how much planning goes into preparing for these memorable moments and the amount of faith it takes to pull them off with so many variables at throughout the day. I love how students can still be goofy at heart – staff too for that matter.

I love how this year has flown past without a single moment of hybrid teaching. I love how OT positions have been filled more frequently. I love how well schools run when there are no outside forces undermining and gaslighting the incredible work done each day on behalf of students, their families, and the community. I love that students know we are working hard for them.

I love being an educator.

* The actual talk has not been posted however the article above captures the goodness contained therein.

The Streets Belong to Us: Seeing One’s self in their Environment.

 

Teaching kids to see themselves in their environment is crucial for holistic development. Author, Karleen Pendleton-Jimenez takes readers on a journey of the importance of this (the environment, self-awareness, and community) in her book, ‘The Streets Belongs to Us.’

“I don’t recognize our street anymore. It’s turned into a big mess of piles of brown dirt and deep holes. It’s like a garden right before you plant the seeds. Everything is torn up and ready for new life to grow. It’s the summer of 1984 in Los Angeles. Twelve-year-old Alex Richardson-Salazar is a mixed-race, Mexican American tomboy who would rather wear her hair short and her older brother’s hand-me-downs. And Wolf is a troubled kid who’s been wearing the same soldier’s uniform since his mom died. But when the city’s digging machines tear up their street to build sidewalks, the best friends seize the opportunity to turn Muscatel Avenue into a muddy wonderland” (Pendleton-Jimenez, 2021).

Navigating difficult and exciting changes is essential to a child’s growth and development. These experiences help children develop important life skills, build resilience, and learn how to adapt to new situations. As educators, we have unique gifts, tools, and resources to guide and encourage students in this meaningful development.

When kids are able to see themselves in their environment, it helps them develop a sense of self-identity and self-awareness. They begin to understand who they are, what makes them unique, and how they fit into the world around them. This self-identity and self-awareness are fundamental aspects of healthy psychological development and can contribute to positive self-esteem and confidence.

How is this evident in this book? Encouraging kids to see themselves in their environment promotes cultural and social awareness. It helps them understand their culture, heritage, and background and appreciate and respect the diversity of cultures and communities around them. This can foster empathy, tolerance, and inclusivity and contribute to the development of socially responsible individuals who can thrive in a multicultural world.

By seeing themselves in their environment (being a part of their environment), kids can develop a connection and appreciation for the natural world. They can learn to value and respect nature, understand their role in protecting the environment, and develop a sense of environmental consciousness. This can foster a sense of stewardship towards the planet, leading to responsible environmental behaviours and actions.

When kids learn to see themselves in their environment, they develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. They learn to observe, analyze, and interpret their surroundings, which promotes cognitive development and nurtures their ability to think critically and solve problems. This skill can benefit them in various aspects of life, from academics to personal and professional relationships.

Emotional and Mental Well-Being is developed richly and deeply rooted when children see themselves and can be themselves in their environment. It helps them develop a sense of belonging and connectedness, which is crucial for healthy emotional development. When kids feel like they belong in their environment, they are more likely to have positive emotional experiences, develop resilience, and have better mental health outcomes.

Teaching kids to see themselves in their environment is vital for their overall development, including self-identity, cultural and social awareness, environmental consciousness, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and emotional and mental well-being. It nurtures their sense of self and connection with the world around them, preparing them to thrive as responsible and engaged individuals in their communities and beyond.

Karleen invites us as educators to explore what our classrooms and communities could sound like, look like, and feel like when we foster spaces for students to see (inquire) and to be seen (explore). Or, as she said in her own words, “Bursting with life and feeling, both the people and the land come alive… The Street Belongs to Us is a story of family, friendship, and unconditional acceptance, even when it breaks your heart.” (Pendleton-Jimenez, 2021).

 

References:

Pendleton-Jimenez, K. (2021). The Streets Belong to Us. Vancouver, BC: Arsenal Pulp Press.

I Heard the Fall Sing

Photo By: Iyanuoluwa Akinrinola

Whispers of wind flowing on a breeze.
Sounds like rushing waters, a flowing stream, a quiet river.

Leaves no longer green, but reds, yellows, browns or bare.
The nip of frost just within reach in the air.

Where does it all go? Time, that is.
We have winter, spring, summer, then FALL.

We fall back in time, resetting our clocks.
We fall back into our routines, our schedules, and our box.

We fall back to the rigorous demands of planning and teaching.
We fall back to juggling the many hats it means to be you – An Educator.

We fall back to needing more time while running out of it.
We fall back to operating within one of the noblest professions of all – Educating.

While we fall back into this calling, we dared answer,
Remember to listen to the whispers of the wind flowing on a breeze.
Permit yourself to follow the sounds as you breathe in the life around you.
Listen as the fall sings, and let it guide your way in the doing that must be done.

Outdoor Education

I love learning outdoors! To me, the outdoors is an extension of the learning that happens in the four corners of the classroom, except there are no walls and no  barriers to one’s imagination in the outdoors. I believe learning occurs everywhere and at all times; what better way to show students the art of experiential learning than through outdoor education. 

 

What are the benefits of outdoor education?

From all of my experiences as an educator, a physical education specialist, and from all that I have learned and read about the art of teaching and learning, there is no doubt in my mind about the positive benefits of outdoor education. From the development of physical skills, mental health, spatial awareness, self-esteem, problem solving and communication skills (just to name a few) to the love, appreciation and respect for nature and all living things, outdoor education transforms lives and student learning to a whole new level beyond the classroom. I find that, though important in student’s overall growth and development, traditional curriculum tends to focus on test-based learning, leaving less emphasis on experiential, play-based outdoor learning. When students are engaged in outdoor education, their academic performance increases, their focus and attention increase, their mental and social health increase and they develop a deeper connection with, and respect for, the environment. 

 

How can schools/teachers incorporate outdoor education into their teaching practices? 

  • You can always take the lesson and/or activity outside (snow, rain or shine). As long as you prepare for the weather conditions and student safety, many activities, with some minor adjustments, can be accomplished in an outdoor setting. 
  • Consider taking part in the OPAL outdoor play education program. Schools are supplied with equipment and resources that students use in various innovative and explorative ways through free play. For example, students can build forts, balance on large wood spools, swing from tire swings and engage in pool-noodle sword play (just to name a few).  For more information, check out Outdoor Play Canada
  • I have also come across many articles that talk about the benefits of outdoor education and outdoor play in many subject areas: the arts, health and physical education, but also including literacy and numeracy. There are also many resources and organizations that are able to support teachers in building strategies to incorporate outdoor education into their teaching practices. I have used resources from Right to Play and OPHEA teaching tools and found them to be very practical and engaging for students.

If you are new to the idea of outdoor education, my suggestion would be to do a little research of your own, talk with other colleagues and/or your administrators and engage your students in a discussion about outdoor education. Another suggestion would be to start small by focusing on one subject/concept at a time and maybe just doing one activity with students. From there, you can set specific goals and measure success through feedback from participants, looking at improvements in academic performance as well as students’ emotional and social well-being. Overall, the benefits of outdoor education speak volume, in terms of student success, student development, and student mental health and well-being. Outdoor education is beneficial to every child in every school community, and it’s a strategy that I hope will one day be commonplace in all school communities across the province.

World Oceans Day

Did you know that World Oceans Day is June 8th? Neither did I! That is until I read Rochelle Strauss’ new book, The Global Ocean. As a long-time fan of Rochelle’s other books – Tree of Life and One Well – I was overjoyed to hear that she was writing a new book and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. In this post, I write about my new learnings as I consider ways to use this book with students. 

The Global Ocean? I Thought There Were 5 Oceans!

Situated in different parts of the world, I always thought of oceans and their wildlife as being separate and unique, without thinking of the interconnectedness of the different bodies of water. Sure, I understood that one body of water flowed into the next but I compartmentalized them thinking of the Pacific Ocean in the west and the Atlantic Ocean in the east. Distinct and separate, mainly due to geography and/or climate. Page 7 of the book brought home the reality of a Global Ocean in sharing about the 1992 cargo ship that fell overboard, spilling nearly 28 000 animal bath toys into the ocean. Over the next 20 years, tracking the rubber ducks was an incredible real-time science experiment on how all of the ocean basins are connected. The results and hearing this blew my mind!

Plastics!

For years I’ve shared about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and had conversations with students about actions we can take to ensure that we aren’t contributing additional waste into our waterways. We’ve talked about plastic bags, straws and can holders and how they impact wildlife when they enter oceans. Years ago, we also had lots of conversations around products that contained microplastics that were used as exfoliants. I hadn’t realized that there are plastics found in many common human-made fabrics. What blew my mind when reading about plastics was the fact that “with every load [of laundry], as many as 17 million tiny plastic fibres get washed down the drain” (pg. 21). What?!?! I got out the calculator and further realized the impact of my actions and have made a commitment to change by being cautious about what I purchase. Tips are peppered throughout this incredible book but I have to say that pages 26 to 35 really offer some fantastic ways to bring about tangible change. 

Why Students?

Sections of this book share about the actions of young people who are making a difference. Individuals speaking out. Groups creating projects. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, children really are the most incredible people on the planet. When they learn of injustice or see something that needs to be made right, they are eager and get creative to bring about change. Much like the interconnectedness of the oceans, when students learn about how their individual actions can have a global impact, they get excited and want to do more.  Inherently, children like to know that their actions can change the world and add to the greater good. I love that this book makes learning approachable and I am seeing so many uses for it within the classroom. Students are eager to act. How might we support them in learning and in turn using this eagerness to bring about change in our world?

This is seriously an incredible book that I think every educator should read, for their own learning and also help students in understanding the importance of our actions on the environment. Students are open and ready to make changes that will result in a better world for everyone. Through incredible texts like these, there’s so much learning and inspiration that can happen, that will lead to much-needed action, and ultimately change. June 8th is World Oceans Day. What action will you take?

Buiding an Inclusive Playground

I am having a lot of fun learning how to center issues of disability justice and equity throughout the curriculum.

Every week, during MSI (Math-Science Investigations) the Grade 2 students solve problems using a variety of building materials. As part of the Science curriculum, we are learning about Movement and Simple Machines. We started this inquiry when we were face-to-face and finished on-line.  We have integrated this learning with disability justice, equity and community activism. For example, we went on a walk and collected data about barriers and “bridges” in our local community. Then, the Grade 2 students designed inclusive playgrounds where everyone is welcome.

Here are some other examples of how we are deepening our understanding of Structures and Mechanisms, and making connections to the local and global community.

World Water Day:
We celebrated World Water Day on March 22, as part of our year-long inquiry about water. Throughout the year, we have explored a variety of texts, including resources from The Junior Water Walker website. After reading “The Water Princess” by Susan Verde and “Anna Carries Water” by Olive Senior, our class simulated the experience of carrying a bucket around the track for 1 km, to represent the journey taken by girls and young women every day.

 

Then, we used building materials to investigate: How might you move water from one place to another?

We learned about a simple machine that was invented to help families carry water in rural India. We watched a YouTube video about The Wello Water Wheel, and talked about the impact it might have.



Toy Day:
On Toy Day, the MSI challenge was: Design a structure that moves or helps your toy to move.

Freda made a wheelchair for her doll.  Svea made a sled.

After building, we watched this video:
Science Max: Simple Machines

Outdoor Learning:
One day, we collected materials to bring outside to investigate simple machines. We worked with partners to explore: How might you use ramps and different balls to investigate levers and inclined planes?

Before schools went back to on-line learning, we went on a Community Walk.  I invited students to think about: “How might we make our community more accessible?  What are some of the barriers and “bridges” in our community?”  Students worked together to draw, write and collect data on clipboards.  We found ramps made by StopGap Foundation, and followed up our walk by reading books about children with different abilities.



Inclusive Playgrounds:
The summative task was: Design and build a model of an inclusive playground that includes a simple machine. The equipment must move a person up and down, or round and round or back and forth.

Students used a variety of materials to build their inclusive playgrounds, including Lego, recycled materials, clay, and Minecraft. Before building, everyone was encouraged to make a plan and draw their designs. Everyone worked on their project off-line and came together to share their VIP: Very Important Projects at the end of the week.

Clem used a glue gun to spell “PARK” in Braille letters.  Avery included an elevator.



Oral presentations have been an effective way to connect, share ideas and feedback, and assess students’ understanding. Technology/Being on-line has created space to hear each other, share our screens and look at photos of our work up close, and invite others into creative Minecraft worlds.  These integrated learning activities were engaging, fun, creative, and provided meaningful opportunities to explore inclusive design and disability justice.  

 

Spring Break Plans

Happy beginning of a well deserved break to everyone! There are many things to celebrate at a time where things are still looking grim in Ontario. Teachers may have found out their jobs for September and are excited to be heading back to their home school or for some of us, the physical classroom! We can also celebrate being on a week long break from planning, teaching and asking “Can you see my screen?” multiple times in one day.

Today in my class, we came up with some ideas for a fun and safe spring break! I apologize that I am sending them at the end of the day but here’s hoping you can post them on your class website or even just try them with your own family.  Here is the list of some grade seven generated fun spring break ideas:

Outdoor Activities:

  • Walks around the neighbourhood
  • Sports
  • Play with pet outside 
  • Go to the park
  • Bike rides
  • Play on your trampoline
  • Walk to a nearby food place (Times, Wendy’s, Dairy Queen and more!)
  • Trampoline 
  • Practice a sport that you play but may have forgotten about 
  • Bike rides 
  • Visit the park 
  • Go to the skatepark in your area 
  • Do some physical activities outside (if allowed)
  • Ride a skateboard
  • Ride a scooter
  • Walk around the survey
  • Chalk, skip rope

Inside:

  • Baking 
  • Ask a family member to teach you a new cooking recipe 
  • Draw
  • FaceTime friends
  • Play board games with your family
  • exercise (not fun but something to do
  • Watch movies
  • Watch shows
  • Clean your room/ house
  • do chores
  • online shop
  • Make a routine
  • Make a to do list
  • Video games with friends
  • Indoor sport activities (mini versions of the sport ex: basketball, hockey, etc.)
  • Organize your room (get your summer clothes out)
  • Help siblings clean their rooms 
  • Draw a specific item by the end of Spring Break 
    • Try your best to draw that item and do it well 
  • Visit SORA (online reading app) and try to finish that book by the end of Spring Break
  • Watch TV (but get a screen break)
  • Paint a place you want to be/wish existed
  • Create your own cartoon character and add a back story to it
    • Get clay and you can create it 3D 
  • Give yourself a theme for the day and you can only wear that or shop for things that colour 
  • Create a new toy
  • Make decorations for your room 
  • Play Roblox
  • Make rings, bracelets
  • Bake or cook to try to learn more and get better
  • Learn how to do embroidery
  • Cooking
  • Making slime!
  • Colour
  • Watch a movie with your family/friends/anyone else
  • Play game boards
  • riddles/jokes
  • If not then do those activities inside in a open space (if you have)
  • Try cooking if not then try helping your mom out with cooking
  • Draw anything or paint or do it digitally
  • Maybe make a journal or calendar to organize yourself during the break
  • Try spending time with fam/siblings

These grade seven ideas are from 15 minutes of sharing so imagine what they could have come up with if they were given a full period! I hope you can try these out and focus on some positive activities. I know we all wish we were away on a beach somewhere but this will have to do for now. For me, I will be doing some landscaping in my backyard and going on some walks.

Stay safe everyone and enjoy the well deserved break!

Water is Life

I have been learning with, from, and about water for several years. In another blog, I shared examples of what decolonial water pedagogy might look like in a Grade 2 classroom.  Whenever possible, it is critically important to invite Indigenous artists, activists, and Earth workers to share their knowledge with students in their own voices.

Water is Life:

This fall, the Grade 2-6 students participated in a workshop with Joce Two-Crows Tremblay and Faye Mullen called “Water is Life”.  They describe the workshop as: “Wondering on water as an ancestral highway, as home, as Medicine and more, through story, song and ceremony.”  

It was a beautiful morning. We gathered in a circle and welcomed our special guests with the song, “Funga Alafia”. Archer Pechawis, a Grove parent, joined us and shared songs and drumming. We offered tobacco and gratitude for their teachings. 



Water as Home:

Joce taught us about the strong connections between language and land. We learned about the Indigenous roots of many words spoken in English. After the workshop, I asked the Grade 2 students to document their new learning on inquiry cards with the prompt, “Now I know….”.

NOW I KNOW….
…that Toronto is pronounced many different ways. SOL
…that Lake Ontario in the Indigenous language is “Lake Handsome Lake.” DEMA


Water as Relative:

After a discussion about the importance of water and who we consider to be our relatives, we learned about the relationship between salmon, people, and water. When young children see themselves in relationships with land that are rooted in reciprocity and respect, they might care for all humans and more-than-humans as family.

Water as Ancestral Highway:

In preparation for the workshop, everyone had made salmon puppets, and we re-created water using tarps and blue material. As Joce and Faye paddled up the river, singing an Anishinaabe Water song, our salmon puppets swam upstream to spawn.

NOW I KNOW….

…a song about water. GWEN
…that people sing river songs to catch up to salmon. CLEM

At the end of our journey, we learned more about how Anishinaabeg used land as tools and technology in innovative ways.

NOW I KNOW…

...how to catch salmon, and when to.  DESMOND

…people put Willows down to trap big salmon.  SVEA

Water as Medicine:

We ended our workshop with a Water Ceremony. We sat in a circle and water was poured into our cup. As we held water in our hands, Joce and Faye invited us to think about how living things can feel and absorb our energy, and that is why we must be aware and intentional about our relationship to land. We were encouraged to send greetings of love and hope and gratitude to the water. After sitting quietly and reflecting, we drank from our cup and wondered if the taste of the water was affected by our ceremony.

NOW I KNOW….
…water can hold lots of energy. LOTE
…water gives life to everything. ELLIOT

It was a powerful morning.  We learned many important lessons about land and language, connection and community, technology and teachings.  Everyone enjoyed learning outside with and from the land, through storytelling, movement and music.  Thank you to Joce, Faye and Archer for sharing your knowledge with us.