The Kindergarten class at Howard Coad School had an amazing time during their nature based learning experiences this spring. We heard the rainclouds rumbling, but we still boarded the bus and headed out to Beaver Creek Conservation Area. Prepared for the rain and prepared for the heat, students eyes were lighting up, shocked, when they realized we were leaving the city. They were excited to notice the river as we passed over the bridge, and later in the day when we were at the site they were able to discuss how creeks are like small rivers that provide homes for animals and plants and connect to large rivers. Students were informed about the special place it was, and they shared what they thought were important expectations to protect nature. We headed to the discovery center to begin our programming by splitting the group in two. Some students stayed with the nature interpreter, learning about different animals and habitats and the place we were. The other students headed out with their teacher, magnifying glasses in hand, ready to explore. Students were interested in observing the different plants, flowers, and bugs they saw, sharing lots of noticing and asking lots of questions. We had some bird stuffies that made different sounds, and we tried to identify the birds we heard by matching them. During our trip we were lucky enough to see some of a large bird in the bushes, feed the chickadees, observe a chipmunk, and experience a beaver dam up close. We had views of the river valley that were so gorgeous the students said it was the most beautiful place on earth. We enjoyed our lunch and snacks on the outdoor verandah, soaking up the fresh air and smell of the rain. After our official programming, students cozied up with with different animal fur jackets, asking questions about each, and settling in for a rest while listening to some read alouds about the prairies. Students then wrote in their nature journals about the things they had seen on their trip and shared it together in a sharing circle. The rain was pouring down relentlessly so we headed back to the bus, everyone happy as a bee who had found some flowers.
It was then on the bus we discovered the first tick! And many more... There were some tears but the students comforted each other and they displayed great amounts of braveness! They consider themselves real nature kids now. There was some ticks that showed up in our classroom throughout the next days, and our courageous little explorers were not phased at all. They told the adults that they were not afraid as it was just bugs from nature.
Our trip out to Beaver Creek was incredible, with students continuing to talk about their experiences and what they saw in the days following. Many parents asked about how to visit, as their children were talking about it non-stop and many have made plans to make feeders to feed the birds near their homes too. Probably the best post trip moment was when we stepped outside our school after the rain and the students exclaimed that it smelt like Beaver Creek. They created fond memories that will last a lifetime!
However, the adventuring and learning was not done. Our young adventurers grabbed their hats and water bottles, invited another class, and we headed off on two more adventures to connect to our Beaver Creek Experience. We visited the Statue Museum/Prairie Habitat Garden/Apple Orchard outside the College of Education, which allowed the students to further connect to, enjoy, appreciate and ask questions about the river. The kindergarteners were excited and shared their knowledge with the older students. Stepping off the bus they noticed the grass was different from at school, and they noticed the gopher holes. We were able to build understandings about how people and animals impact landscapes, and about how important it is to care, respect, and show love for nature. The students put into practice their understandings of "leave no trace" and were responsible with their garbage and materials. Next up was a trip the Saskatoon Forestry Farm and Zoo, where students took the lead on sharing the trip expectations. "Don't pick what you see" said one student, and "Don't chase the birds or animals, they are relaxing in their home" said another. "No eating things you don't know" was shared (although we did find some Caragana and had a little lesson and snack). Students were impressed by the bison and had so many connections and understandings about how they used to live everywhere on the prairies. They were amazed to see the bird of prey, and shared lots of noticing about the different beaks and talons. Multiple students commented on how it was sad that the animals couldn't be out in the wild.
Overall, the students have loved being outside in nature and frequently ask for more outdoor learning experiences. They feel competent and confident to be outdoors and know that it is up to them to take care of the earth. Our trips truly deepened the understanding of and love for the land that our students have been developing. The trips were highly successful and the students learnt a lot as demonstrated in conversations and follow up crafts, writing, drawings, stories. They are competent, capable, creative, courageous, and dedicated to caring about nature and animals.