Students and staff at Dr. John C. Wickwire Academy have a vision for learning in the future and it’s not on a screen, it’s not even inside, it’s in nature.
An initiative that staff, students, parents, community groups, and various levels of government at Wickwire have been working on could see that vision turn into a reality.
Natalie McMaster and Adam Leuschener, a teacher at the Wickwire, made a presentation for Council for the Region of Queens Municipality on May 13 to ask permission to use municipal property as an outdoor classroom and a closed loop walking trail.
Leuschener says the elementary school would also see some “re-naturing” through flower gardens and by looping the proposed new trail around the school.
“The initiative is to reconnect our children with nature as an alternative form of learning,” says Leuschener.
During their presentation Leuschener and McMaster showed examples of outdoor classrooms and explained the benefits of learning outside.
“Kids today are certainly aware of the global threats to the environment but their physical contact and intimacy with nature is fading and that’s what we’re looking to change,” says Leuschener.
Leuschener says other schools that have used nature based learning have seen a higher retention rate, bullying and aggression were lowered, improved social skills, can help students that are withdrawn and shy, and help students with ADHD and ADD pay attention.
The nature trail would also be available for the public to use. Leuschener highlighted an area under a large tree with little undergrowth that could serve as a suitable outdoor classroom. He says the trail would not be heavily manicured like many park trails are.
McMaster says she hopes the initiative gets families involved in nature as well.
“We’re hoping with this space that the kids will get confident, that they’ll say ‘lets go for a walk in the woods,’” says McMaster. “We’re hoping they’ll get the rest of their siblings and parents out and learn to play again.”
Councillors as well as Mayor Christopher Clarke were impressed by the presentation.
“I think it’s a great idea,” says Councillor Jack Fancy.
No decisions were made at the council meeting but all councillors responded positively to the idea and discussed ways that the land could be designated for the school’s use.