Two local schools started taking class outside five years ago. Here’s what they learned
Article content continued
Pierre Elliott Trudeau has a large playground but little indoor space because the student population has doubled in the past decade. In Quebec, unless there is medical exemption, students must attend school in person, so he knew the school would not be losing students during the pandemic.
“We had to move outdoors,” said McFall.
In Quebec, each class is considered its own bubble. There are 13 recess “zones” outside. The school also stopped using bells.
“That was a signal to students that they should surge into the building,” said McFall.
“Being outside reduces stress. I find the kids are happy,” said Josée Bédard, the principal at École élémentaire et secondaire publique Rivière Rideau.
“They are motivated to learn. They bring what they learn outside back to the classroom. And they bring what they learn in the classroom outdoors.”
Safety remains a priority, said Bédard. Students still wear masks outdoors for grades 4 to 8. Even in forest school, they have to observe physical distancing.
Before COVID, there was a plan to mainstream the ideas behind forest schools in three to five years, said Heather Wilson, the director of operations at the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada, which encourages unstructured outdoor learning.
“But then COVID hit — and the plan came two-and-a-half years early.”
But while learning outdoors has been embraced by individual school boards, Wilson said it might still be a while before provincial education ministries license and embed the idea into the school curriculum.