Queen Mary students turn to nature

Schools & Students

“Is that east?” asks a student, pointing towards a clump of trees in the distance. “No, west,” he said, correcting himself. He and his partner take three large steps in that direction and pencil a note onto their sheet.

Since September, a class of Grade 2 students from Queen Mary Elementary has gone on weekly ‘nature walks’, using Point Grey’s natural spaces as their classroom. Walks start in the morning and students return to the school after lunch. During nature walks, students take part in activities such as story time, science lessons, and discussions about natural events.

The class teacher, Michelle Catlin, sees a host of benefits from taking her class outdoors. In addition to the physical benefits of being more active, the students benefit academically and personally from the experience, she said.

“The curriculum is just so much more meaningful when we’re outside.”

On the nature walks, the Grade 2 students have discussed changes in seasons, learned about cardinal directions through creating ‘treasure maps’, and built snow shelters. As the weather warms up, Catlin plans to include quieter activities such as math lessons and sketching.

Catlin has noticed improvements in student attention levels. “Students who sometimes struggle in the confines of the four walls and having to sit in chairs and tables excel when they’re outside,” she said.

“I see their innate curiosity come alive when they’re outside in nature. It’s like this wonderful campus for them to explore, and everyone’s engaged.”