Guest post by Jamie Ozerkevich, Teacher, Huronia Centennial Public School
The enthusiasm, positive energy and eagerness to learn was obvious at the SCDSB on Saturday, January 24, as many educators gathered to experience a day of learning outdoors at the Mittens in the Snow conference. It was refreshing to be part of a day dedicated to educating people about how our youngest students learn in their natural environment.
Outdoor learning provides children an opportunity to explore their natural curiosity and take risks in their learning. As an educator who takes my class outside daily, I am constantly aware of the awe and inquiries that come from children experiencing the outdoor environment.
Being part of Mittens in the Snow event reminded me of the power outdoor education has to help us regulate ourselves to remain focused and mindful. This allows us to learn and explore while confidently developing oral language and social skills.
I am so thankful to have had an opportunity to learn and share with my colleagues. An educator I met at the workshop mentioned that the Hands in the Dirt conference this past September had provided her with many outdoor learning ideas for the fall, and she could hardly wait to gain as many ideas for learning in the winter.
It was wonderful to be in a space with educators who recognize the importance of self-motivation in learning. What’s more motivating than being outside in the natural environment with what children are most familiar with? Our early learners have so much to offer and we need to provide them the opportunity to confidently share their ideas and develop the skills needed to take risks in their learning. Workshops like Mittens in the Snow provide an awesome learning environment for educators to take what they have learned back to their schools, colleagues and—most importantly—their students.
Everyone can get outside no matter what grade level. So keep it simple, be open-minded and listen to what your students have to say as they explore and engage with the environment.
Watching everyone leave Mittens in the Snow with smiles on their faces reinforces the positive mindset that being outside provides. Give it a try and think outside. Observe what happens with your students: you may be pleasantly surprised at the learning it will bring into your classroom.