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Vancouver teacher looks to outdoor learning amid coronavirus pandemic

Vancouver teacher plans all day outdoor education for kids this fall
WATCH: Vancouver teacher plans all day outdoor education for kids this fall.

With B.C. students heading back to class Sept. 10, one Vancouver teacher is hoping it’s a chance to get kids out of the classroom and into the outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic.

“My hope and my vision is that as many students as can be outside for as much of the time as possible,” said Meagan Braun, who teaches lower primary grades in the Vancouver school district.

“We live in a temperate climate. There’s no bad weather, there’s just bad gear.”

Read more: B.C. students to return to the classroom by Sept. 10, a two-day delay to the start of school

Braun said she believes outdoor learning will be safer for children, but she’s also convinced it’s a more effective learning environment than desks and blackboards.

Braun isn’t looking to move desks outside and simply repeat the classroom environment. Kids will use clipboards when it’s time for paper-and-pen activities, but she says there’s no reason to prioritize that.

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Grandparent caregivers concerned about return to school
Grandparent caregivers concerned about return to school

“It’s going to take creativity, it’s going to take people thinking outside the box,” she said.

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“I’ve always been passionate about the benefits (of outdoor learning) for self-regulation, for students learning about their sense of place in the world, the history behind where we live, the benefits of the sensory experiences they can have outside.

“It’s just endless possibilities outdoors.”

Read more: B.C. records 85 new coronavirus cases, its third-highest ever single-day total

Alison Leslie is the acting vice-principal at Surrey’s East Kensington Elementry, which offers an outdoor learning program called EKOLogy for Kindergarten to Grade 4.

She says there has been a recent surge in interest from parents about the program, and from teachers at other schools looking to adopt some of the ideas.

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British Columbia students won’t return to schools until Sept. 10
British Columbia students won’t return to schools until Sept. 10

“(They want to know) how do we start? What do you do to prepare to get outside? Their big concerns are like, how to cover the curriculum? My answer is always ‘take it slow,'” she said.

“Take one subject and then you’ll find that you’re wanting to be outside more. Do your morning circle outside and talk about what you see, or how you’re feeling, and start with a social-emotional piece and then bring in the curriculum piece.”

Leslie said there are often opportunities to use nature and the outdoors to transition into core curriculum concepts including math, science and literature.

Read more: B.C. government to hire up to 500 additional contact tracers amid COVID-19 pandemic

Braun said she has been getting a lot of positive feedback, along with some concerns from parents — particularly when it comes to weather.

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However, she believes B.C.’s mild climate means that as long as kids have the right clothing, they can spend plenty of time outdoors.

To that end, she’s put out a call for donations of warm and dry gear and has been overwhelmed with the response.

“There are plenty of people with more than they need,” she said. “Where do their clothing and boots that are perfectly functional go?”