What happens when kids spend time in nature on a regular basis? Research tells us that the benefits are manifold, yet most children today get much more screen time than outdoor time.
At Regina Street Public School, we've been immersing our grade 5 and 6 students in nature-based learning during annual overnight camping trips at our district's outdoor education centre since 2001. As educators, we experienced firsthand the positive effects of this exposure on our students, not only academically, but also socially. How could we extend this experience to students' daily experience?
We're fortunate to have the Mud Lake - Britannia Conservation Area located about 200 m from our back doors. Here's what the National Capital Commission, the government body responsible for the area, has to say about it:
"A patch of wilderness in the middle of an urban setting, Mud Lake is an amazing area of forest and wetlands. Located in Ottawa’s west end, Mud Lake is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, with raccoons, frogs, turtles and foxes, to name but a few. This ecologically significant urban natural landscape is also prime birding territory, with thousands of birdwatchers coming each year to observe hundreds of different species. A walk through this easy-to-access urban jungle provides an exciting escape from city life."
Starting with one class, we began our journey outwards from the classroom to the natural world around us. Despite challenges, we continued on, adding more classrooms, until we reached the point where all students within the school were accessing Mud Lake on a weekly or biweekly basis. Outdoor time became the best time of the week for our students and staff.
Our school team has worked hard to promote environmental stewardship within our school and across the Ottawa Carleton District School Board. We've dubbed our project, which was partially funded through the Teacher Leadership and Learning Program (TLLP), "The Mud Lake Project". For more details about past activities, as well as what we're currently up to, check out the Projects page of this website.
Follow us on Twitter (@mudlakeproject) to keep track of what we're up to, and feel free to contact us for more information, using our Contact page.
Thanks to the amazing work of Sira Chayer and Lisa Glithero from the University of Ottawa, we have a video that captures our unique approach to making outdoor learning a part of our teaching practice.
REGINA SCHOOL-MUD LAKE-V2 from Robert James on Vimeo.