OSEE shares Input, Ideas and Data on Outdoor Learning for Ontario’s Plan to Reopen Schools

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Author: Josie Di Felice

Posted: July 27, 2020

Categories: Good Food Ideas for Kids / GoodFoodBites / Schools

The Ontario Society for Environmental Education (OSEE) has released a report, Ontario’s Plan to Reopen Schools: Input, Ideas and Data, to respond to the Ministry of Education’s invitation to inform plans and policies for reopening schools.

The document highlights the notable benefits of outdoor education—education that includes gardening and other food literacy activities—and ways we can enhance outdoor education and new ways of learning.

Responses and findings are shared from a survey OSEE conducted in June 2020, which asked Ontario educators and environmental education champions how schools can promote and support outdoor learning in Ontario.

Above all, respondents agreed that more outdoor learning is an excellent idea, acknowledging the many benefits.

“More and more studies have shown the health benefits of teaching children in the outdoors,” shared Jacob Rodenburg, Camp Kawartha, page 3. “If we want to foster environmental stewards, we need to immerse students in their environment so they can gain knowledge, appreciation and connection to the very life systems that nurture us all.”

Responses also pointed to the fact that support is needed from government and all levels of the school system. The OSEE organized needs into three categories: learner needs, educator needs, and school yard needs.

As one example, school yard needs included “Designated basic garden plots for growing food and native plants (greenhouses, pots & tubs, milk crates, raised beds, access to soil, seeds / plants, tools and water – all of this can be mobilized very low cost and through community)” (page 7)

Green Thumbs Growing Kids shared:

“We look forward to the many ways we can support teachers to use their school grounds, particularly gardens, which we have been allowed to maintain over the summer. We are providing food to the community and engaging community members in keeping with COVID19 protocols. Not sure what this looks like in September but I feel that our services as partner-garden-educators will be more required, and it would be great to have some additional staffing resources to meet the need.”

The document concludes with OSEE offering fives recommendations to the Ontario Ministry of Education, with more details on each found in the report:

  1. Build capacity for educators
  2. Advance Ministry and outside organizational policy papers
  3. Compile and share relevant and outstanding resources that can support educators to feel more confident teaching outdoors. (e.g. Sustain Ontario’s Greenhouse Resource Library!)
  4. Encourage learning between schools and classrooms
  5. Encourage a greater diversity of learning approaches and assignment formats

“EE and outdoor learning have much to offer to the current moment,” shares Jessie Cowe, OSEE President. “These teaching and learning approaches can enliven any subject while being adaptable to in-person or remote learning environments. EE practitioners hold valuable experience which could be called upon to model the possibilities for learning outdoors as part of the reopening process. In addition, nature-based and outdoor learning provide pathways for supporting our physical and mental wellbeing during this time.”

Read the full document here.