Learning at 900M Above Sea Level

With one of my schools I have the opportunity to chaperone the Ski / Snow board club, watching the group of grade 5-7 students on the snow it really is learning at 900M above sea level. We get to experience all that beautiful cypress mountain has to offer, from gently sloping runs on Easy Rider to the sweeping vistas of Vancouver, the Lions and as far north as Squamish from the top of the Sky Chair. While the setting is picturesque the students are more focused on the snow it’s self. For many our first troop up what their first time on the snow. Learning here is about more that just the physical skills of skiing and boarding. The students are developing perseverance, snow sports are not learned quickly and learning them can sometimes involve uncomfortable and cold falls, into the snow. They are also developing independence; students are responsible for their own gear including packing it up and getting it home again. Students can be seen helping each other track down wandering mittens and stray socks, or returning found items to their friends.

 

Even more important than the physical skills, perseverance and independence the students are building relationships with others. Their ski / board groups do not reflect their classroom groups, students come from a number of classes and groups on the mountain are mixed age. This allows students to get to know kids that they would not necessarily interact with at school. Building relationships like this draws students closer together and builds school community as well. The students can be heard singing and playing games together on the bus usually with out technology. On the bus they play games like the alphabet game (looking for each letter on signs and licence plates), grand mothers suitcase, the counting game and the camping trip game. Students are building human connections with those sitting near them on the bus and with the staff sitting near them. I really enjoy playing bus games with my students; the letters “ X” and “Z” are really hard to spot on signs and licence plates.

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I think most important for me; the students are connecting with nature! We are outside in the elements, they get to watch the sunset over Vancouver and feel the cold mountain air as they glide down the mountain. So many students spend the majority of their time indoors away from the elements, yet time in nature is essential for student’s mental well being. Many only go outside for less than an hour a day during their recess and lunch breaks. Getting students on the mountain for 3.5 hours a week helps get them in tune with nature. Students are actively making comparisons to the week before. With things like “ it’s warmer this week the snow is stickier”, “ the snow last week was lighter than this week, why?” They made connections to their own experience and observed the conditions. In my own reading I have been looking at ways to bring nature into my own lessons more and more and also the why of bringing nature in. Some of the articles I’ve read recently include:

https://naturalearning.org/sites/default/files/Benefits%20of%20Connecting%20Children%20with%20Nature_InfoSheet.pdf

https://www.childrenandnature.org/about/nature-deficit-disorder/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/people-in-nature/200901/no-more-nature-deficit-disorder

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4204431/

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/docs-talk/2013/06/mental-health-doctor-prescribes-a-good-dose-of-nature/

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