By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Outdoor Learning Winter Virtual Workshop Series is underway. The Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network (CBEEN) launched the Outdoor Learning Store, a charitable non-profit social enterprise in 2020 as an online one-stop shop for educators to access equipment, resources and tools for outdoor learning.
The Outdoor Learning Store, based in Invermere with partners across North America, began offering free virtual 60-minute workshops in January on Tuesday evenings. There are seven webinars in total for their winter series with the last one on March 7. Educators or those who wish to learn can sign up anytime by visiting https://outdoorlearningstore.com/workshops/.
“These virtual workshops were in response to the pandemic, in seeing a need to support educators with professional development, highlight the importance and possibilities of outdoor learning as a tool in this time of crisis and wanting to ensure that we maintained connection and community through these tough times,” said Jade Berrill, CBEEN outreach and events manager. “We didn’t realize how powerful it was in ensuring people from diverse places and less represented areas or groups, could access professional development, so it’s wonderful to the waterfall of good effects happening – we have now over 3,000 registrants for our next two upcoming workshops.”
The first workshop, Taking Math Outdoors, will be hosted by Pamela Gibson and Janice Haines on February 7 at 4 p.m. Both work at Belfountain Public School in Caledon, Ontario. Gibson, who taught there for over 30 years, recently started to work for Learning for a Sustainable Future as the school’s lead. Haines has been at Belfountain for 20 years and is a kindergarten teacher.
“All who attend will be invited to imagine the many ways they could enter an outdoor relationship with teaching math. It’s a natural fit with learning outdoors, as children spend time outside, they realize there is a relevant, connectable math component in everything they take an interest in,” said Gibson.
Berrill said CBEEN’s mandate is to share resources with educators and deepen their connection to the outdoors and help them spend more time there. This workshop aims to resonate with anyone who educates. Gibson said experiencing math outdoors is interesting and encourages kids to become more aware of what’s going on in the natural world and their communities, and to become comfortable being a part of it all, all year round.
“There are many avenues into outdoor learning,” said Gibson. “Using math as one route ‘out the school door’ is one of the most under-utilized by educators and yet one of the easiest ways to get started outside. We hope those who attend will find their way into teaching and learning outdoors.”
The second virtual workshop will be Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults on Feb 8 at 4 p.m. Award-winning best-selling author and professional consultant, Monique Gray Smith, will be part of the workshop.
“We are incredibly honoured to have Monique share with us for this workshop. She has incredible expertise in sharing wisdom, knowledge, and hope,” said Berrill. “Monique has written several influential and accessible books and her adaptation of ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’ by Robin Wall Kimmerer is special in that it makes the content more accessible to young people, and offers fantastic opportunities for educators to pose questions that will provoke thought and curiosity in students.”
“Learning outside is not break from education but a support for it,” said Berrill. “It reminds us we are all connected, and in our modern society of digital disconnect, heavily distant from our natural spaces and places, these are lessons that I think we all need to hear.”