By Karen McColl
Revelstoke kids love winter! When outdoor educator Debby Robinson asked a Grade Two/Three class at Arrow Heights Elementary what their favourite thing about winter was, almost every single hand in the room shot up enthusiastically.
After patiently listening to a few snowy stories, Robinson cleverly steered the conversation towards animals, and how they survive in the winter. After a ptarmigan dress-up activity, and a mere 30 minutes spent inside, it was time to go outside to nature’s classroom where most of the learning- and the fun- would take place.
This was how the Winter Wonder program began for Wendy Mulligan’s Grade Two/Three class on Friday morning.
The Winter Wonder program is run by Wildsight, a non-profit organization that, among other things, delivers environmental education and outreach programs to students throughout the Columbia basin. Winter Wonder seeks to give children a greater appreciation of winter while exploring the ecosystem in their own backyard- in this case, the forest beside Arrow Heights Elementary.
Robinson started teaching environmental education programs for Wildsight in Revelstoke in 2001 when the organization was first formed. The Winter Wonder program was created after numerous teachers, who had used their summer program, Classroom with Outdoors, requested a winter version. This year 95 Winter Wonder sessions will be taught to kindergarten to grade three classes throughout the Columbia Basin, in addition to several other programs for older students.
Once outside, Robinson successfully used a variety games and activities that made learning fun, even in the chilly, wet weather. Students squealed with pleasure while playing ‘predator and prey’ type games and were asked to engage all of their senses when exploring their surroundings in the forest.
“It smells really good,” commented another young student while sniffing a hemlock branch during the lesson about coniferous and deciduous trees.
Enthusiasm is contagious in the outdoors. It didn’t take long before these young and inquisitive minds were striking out on their own and finding more things explore and question.
“Mrs Robinson, look what I found!” An excited boy cried while another exclaimed, “I found the home of a red squirrel!”
Robinson is passionate about the program and seeing children excel in the outdoors. Her favourite thing is “being outside with the kids.”
“I have a passion for getting kids outside- they really need that.” Robinson is thrilled when the students remember the lessons she taught them the previous year.
That the young students may have had a sugar-high from their Valentine’s Day treat at recess didn’t seem to matter; they were captivated for the nearly three-hours of outdoor activities and Robinson and Mulligan had to ease them out of their last activity, building a mouse house.
Another successful day learning in the outdoors!
For more information about Wildsight and Education in the Wild programs, please visit www.wildsight.ca.
In the meantime we hope you’ll enjoy these images of the Winter Wonder program: