Every elementary school in Nova Scotia will get a new outdoor learning space by end of year

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia elementary schools to get new outdoor learning spaces this year' Nova Scotia elementary schools to get new outdoor learning spaces this year
WATCH: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to highlight gaps and opportunities in education systems nationwide, the federal and provincial governments are turning the spotlight to outdoor learning. As Elizabeth McSheffrey reports, $7 million in funds will ensure every elementary school in the province gets a new outdoor learning space by the end of 2021 – Apr 13, 2021

The Nova Scotia and federal governments have promised every public elementary school in Nova Scotia will receive a new outdoor learning space by the end of the calendar year.

Education minister Derek Mombourquette and federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan announced $7-million in joint funding on Wednesday to complete the projects, which could include school gardens, outdoor shelters, performance spaces and more.

Of those funds, $1.4 million will come from Nova Scotia and $5.6 million will come from Ottawa.

“One of the lessons from COVID-19 is the overwhelming benefit that we see from teaching and learning outdoors,” said Mombourquette outside École Burton Ettinger Elementary, in the Halifax neighbourhood of Fairview.

Elected officials (left to right) Geoff Regan, Bernadette Jordan, Derek Mombourquette, and Patricia Arab attend an outdoor learning funding announcement in Halifax on April 13, 2021. Elizabeth McSheffrey/Global News

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The projects must be “aligned with curriculum and opportunities for physical activity,” according to the provincial Education Department, and include connections to priorities such as biodiversity, inclusivity, African Nova Scotian heritage, and treaty education to promote reconciliation.

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“Especially in urban areas like Fairview, Clayton Park where we don’t have a lot of green space, the importance is insurmountable,” said Patricia Arab, local MLA, Service Nova Scotia minister, and a former teacher.

“We need to have our kids outside in COVID times and not, so this is going to mean so much to our families and school communities.”

“We already have lots of ideas, that money is already spent,” said Tracy Rodgers, vice-president of the parent-teacher association at École Burton Ettinger Elementary.

“We had already thought about using some of these creative corners as a theatre space, we would love to see some activity stations.”

Click to play video: 'Funding announced for modular classrooms in Halifax' Funding announced for modular classrooms in Halifax
Funding announced for modular classrooms in Halifax – Mar 30, 2021

While Nova Scotia has escaped much of the learning disruption caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, it’s been a difficult year of adaptation and change for students, teachers and other school staff.

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Spring and mid-term report cards have now been distributed in most schools, but Mombourquette said it’s unclear whether overall academic performance has been impacted by COVID-19. The province is assessing that and will have “more to say on that later.”

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Paul Wozney, head of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, said he doesn’t have concerns about “learning loss” that exist in other provinces that have continually bounced back and forth between virtual and in-person learning.

“Things look good here in Nova Scotia and we’re far better-positioned. If data shows that we’ve got pockets of students that need support, we’re going to be able to direct that tactically and strategically as opposed to having to worry about the system as a whole.”

Wozney is calling on the provincial government to make teachers a priority group in its immunization rollout, as variants of concern circulate in Nova Scotia and elsewhere.

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