Winter has arrived and I’m celebrating! I want children to enjoy the outdoors and feel connected to nature in every season. We all need the vitamin D from the sunshine so let’s get out there and do explorations and investigations about snow, ice, friction, sound, habitats, survival and more.
There are obstacles to getting students outdoors. Appropriate winter clothing is one that is easy to solve but what about attitudes? There is a prevailing attitude in society that winter weather is dangerous. The media tends to put out warnings that create fear and anxiety in our students, their families and school staff. I agree that driving conditions can be treacherous but when it comes to recess time, outdoor p.e. classes, science experiments, daily physical activity and neighbourhood walks I believe we should embrace this beautiful season.
A few years ago I was attending the Reading for the Love of It conference in Toronto and the session I attended had attracted people from across Canada (it was the incredible illustrator, Barbara Reid – but that’s for another post). Teachers at my table were from Saskatchewan, Northern Ontario, Newfoundland and Southern Ontario. I learned that attitudes toward winter weather vary across the country. The teacher from Saskatchewan said, “we go outdoors in all kinds of weather or we wouldn’t ever get outside!”. They gave examples that in parts of Canada children arrive to school by snowmobile. I bet they live by the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”.
What is wrong with hunkering down for the winter months with movies, video games and books? If we do too much of that we miss the chance to develop a positive relationship with the natural world. In the big picture, we know this disconnect means that children do not grasp our role as humans in the natural ecosystems where we live. We want these students to grow up to be adults who understand the need to protect the natural world and minimize negative human impacts.
For some students, their families may not do any outdoor winter activities. Even if you just do a few winter outdoor activities this season, your students will be thanking you. You may even help us have less fear and anxiety in schools about winter weather.
Enjoy the season!