Take Learning Outside: Training for Teachers

Expand the teaching toolbox to enable outdoor learning that is fun, safe and effective.

“I always notice full engagement when we take learning outdoors.”  -teacher

An Immersive Workshop for Teachers & Educators (half-day session)

If there is one thing that Covid-19 has taught us, it’s that getting outside is a good and necessary thing. We know that more outdoor time is an important component in overall health and wellness as well as a great way to support student engagement and learning.

We are lucky in the Annapolis Valley to have safe outdoor spaces at the doorstep of most schools in our region so the potential for lots of outdoor school time is there, but not everyone has the experience to make that a reality.  

Taking students outside can feel intimidating without proper guidance in using outdoor spaces, techniques for managing groups, and access to grade and subject appropriate outdoor activities.  That’s why we created this workshop.

We want to help you take teaching outside this school year (and beyond). And we want you to enjoy it as much as we do!

Our workshops are highly interactive with an emphasis on learning by doing. Workshop participants will walk away with tried and tested approaches for engaging groups outside.

As a follow-up to the workshop we will connect you to various outdoor learning resources to support your journey of outdoor teaching in the year ahead. We can also be available for follow-up support if needed.

Cost: $475 per group (up to 15 participants), flexible timing

Location: We recommend sessions take place on school grounds with a cohort of educators from the same school, but this is flexible.

Contact: Email us today to book your session valleyflyingsquirrels@gmail.com

Workshop & Facilitator Details

We have years of experience taking groups into nearby nature to facilitate outdoor learning, playing and connection.  We are familiar with Valley school grounds and surrounding areas through our work leading Trailblazers and other outdoor programs. We are excited to share our best practices for outdoor safety, engagement and learning. Our workshop will cover:

  • Getting to know and planning to use your space: guided site walk of the school grounds and surrounding areas where appropriate
  • A variety of outdoor games and activities suited to different ages, learning styles and curriculum needs
  • Identifying the risks (vs hazards) of your nature spaces and the role of risky play for developmental growth and learning
  • Tools and techniques for class management in the outdoors
  • The natural learning cycle and how it can be used for planning time outside
  • Leave No Trace principles so that your natural space wears well and remains beautiful through repeated use

The Facilitators

Emily LeGrand

Emily has been teaching outside for more than ten years in contexts ranging from high school trail crews to environmental learning centres receiving more than 30,000 elementary students each year to volunteer tree planting events. During the last six years, she has been expanding nature play programs throughout the Annapolis Valley, including training and mentoring nature play program leaders. She is a facilitator of the provincial Reconnecting to Nature workshop developed by the Adventure Earth Centre and Hike Nova Scotia, designed to empower people who work with children to take them outside. She’s excited to support teachers in bringing the power and joy of learning in nature to their students during this time when we have never needed it more!

Judy Lipp

Judy has been facilitating groups of varying ages and abilities outdoors for over six years. She has led the Trailblazers after school nature program at Valley schools and has developed and led a variety of outdoor programs including the Girl’s Winter Adventure Club at KCA, a nature camp series for youth-at-risk, the popular Forest Play program in Kentville, a monthly nature outing series for families and various pop-up nature sessions in collaboration with community partners. Judy also works at the national level to support teachers and educators to take teaching outside and is tapped into a large body of resources that do just that.  She is looking forward to the opportunity to bring her combination of outdoor facilitation skills and knowledge of outdoor learning resources to educators in the Valley to empower them to take teaching outside and to enjoy it as much as she does!

We look forward to hearing from you:  valleyflyingsquirrels@gmail.com

Outdoor Learning is Great for Health and Wellness All Around

Outdoor learning allows for physical distancing to happen more naturally than confining students to their desks, and managing infection risk of COVID-19 is easier outdoors. And beyond that, there are many other documented benefits to learning outside that will serve teachers and students well. Studies have found*:

  • More engaged learning, as children are better able to concentrate, and are better behaved;
  • Improved academic performance. There are positive correlations between the greenness of school landscapes and academic performance, such as standardized test scores and rates of graduation;
  • Improved mental well-being including reduced levels of anxiety and depression;
  • Improved physical well-being including reduced rates of diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.

Learning outside is inspiring and feels great. With a burst of renewed inspiration, and some tips and best practices, teachers will feel empowered to take their classes outside, where everyone will have the opportunity to be safer, healthier, and more engaged during the school day.

* From a recent report from the Children and Nature Network

What teachers are saying about taking their teaching outside**: 

“Students love being outside. I want to do it more.” 

“Students [benefit] so much! Here are the ways: self-regulation and understanding how nature can be calming, sense of wonder and connection to big ideas, movement and understanding concept of space, loving nature in its patterns of weather and seasons, observation and awakening all the senses, sharing the experience with others!”

“Students that might typically have had to be pulled out or receive alternative programming were able to have a positive fully immersed and productive school year”

“In the outdoors, kids who sometimes do not normally shine, discover they have knowledge and skills that are special and valued and then speak up and share these with others.”

“I think the work has paid off during this time at home [Covid shutdown]. I have students who are regularly emailing me about the outside adventures they are having and even have some kiddos sending me videos of the birds in their backyards. In reflection on the year, many kids wrote that being outside and visiting our local park was their favorite part of grade 5.”

** These quotes are from teachers who took their students outside for learning for at least 1 lesson a week for the 2019/20 school year (before it was interrupted).