In 2019, we celebrated 50 years of Outdoor education in the WRDSB. It began in a single portable at Laurel Creek Conservation Area in 1969 and has grown over five decades to four permanent sites across the region.
Over 26,000 students visited the four locations last year, allowing them to explore, experience and enjoy learning about the environment first-hand
Blair, Laurel Creek, Camp Heidelberg and Wrigley’s Corners offer students unique and hands-on learning experience, bringing the lessons learned in their classrooms to life.
Pond studies, observing winter birds, honey bee hive visits, habitat comparisons and advanced mapping skills are just a few of the activities students in Grades 1 – 12 participate in. Environmental cycles are looked at, starting in Grade 6, when students learn about the current state of the climate. In Grades 10 and 11, the programs they participate in focus on issues like climate change and sustainable forest management.
Over time, programs offered at our outdoor education centres have evolved to meet the changes in the curriculum. At Blair Outdoor Education Cente, a newly developed program helps Grade 5 students make connections to Indigenous peoples. Students participate in Indigenous land-based sustainability practices, helping to restore the natural habitats and native species that are found around the outdoor education centre. This program allows students to make important connections to Indigenous peoples and their lives in Canada today.
Our new strategic plan has a focus on student well-being, and outdoor education plays a significant role as it allows students to get outside of the classroom, which has shown increased student engagement and academic achievement.
On October 3, staff, trustees, students and community members came together to celebrate 50 years of outdoor education. Retired staff members reflected on their time in the program, students spoke about their experiences and trustees talked about the value outdoor education provides to our students.
Chairperson Jayne Herring spoke about her visit to two outdoor education centres last spring.
“I had the privilege of visiting Wrigleys Corners and Blair. I went on a pond study with students, and it was clear to see, not only how much fun they were having, but how engaged in their learning they were,” said Chairperson Herring. “This visit was one of my most favourite experiences I have had as a trustee, and during my many years as a WRDSB employee. I didn’t want to leave.”
To all of our outdoor educators, past and present, thank you for creating unforgettable learning experiences. Congratulations on 50 years – we can’t wait to see what the next 50 have in store.