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Testimonial: Impossible for me to turn my back on outdoor education

Testimonial from a teacher who participated in the pilot project (Oct-Dec. 2022):
Sophie Penny, 6th grade teacher, École Maurice L Duplessis in Saint-Hubert, gives us an update on the Open-Sky School Program

Parental consent:

As I am in my second year of looping with my students, I already have a very nice relationship with the parents of my little wolves. Getting their consent was not difficult and the parents were very excited. Throughout this project, they were even able to see their children experience your activities through photos that I sent them on a daily basis. Only 2 students did not participate.

Project implementation:

I won’t lie to you, after 14 yearsin 6th grade, it was quite a challenge to get my students involved in activities that didn’t belong to me, hahahaha. I’d lost the habit of adopting material. So getting acquainted with the activities and trying to adapt them as best as possible for my cohort was the thing I found most difficult. But in the end, I had students who were really happy and motivated when it came time to go outside.

The biggest hurdle was preparing materials that I did’nt have in class for the activities I wanted my students to do (mathematics and science). So I had to put it all together. The preparation phases were all simple and fun, so my students liked it.

As Mother Nature was really lenient with us, we were able to really enjoy our time outside. Even the rain didn’t stop us… much to the delight of my students. Ay! A teacher who goes outside when it rains!!

As far as I am concerned, I’ve seen my students invested in your activities as never before. Leaving the classroom, even if it seemed a little scary, allowed my students to connect with a different school, a school where it’s possible to combine learning and fun. They’ve all talked to me about the feeling of freedom, of not feeling like they were learning, just because they were outside the walls of our school. It was magical to listen to them tell me about their experience. They clearly enjoyed working alone or in teams. Seeing this, it’s now impossible for me to turn my back on outdoor education and so, yes, I will continue your activities. You managed to inspire me and I even started editing my outdoor math lesson plans (triangles, circles, area and perimeter, length measurement) for the return from Christmas break.

Effects on my students:

Over the past few weeks, I’ve really noticed a strong enthusiasm when it comes to going outdoors. They were motivated, excited and above all involved! And THAT is the best effect I could see on my students. Hearing them laugh feels good. We laugh in class every day, but to decontextualize learning and restore the mini spark of the desire to learn to those to those who are struggling with their final year! MY GOD, I can’t thank you enough.

It’s clear and very obvious to me that I will continue to do your activities with my students. They ask me on a daily basis what our next outdoor activity is. In all this, the winner is clearly ME. I am learning to reinvent myself, I am changing my practice, I will surprise my students….in short WOW, what a beautiful project!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Sophie Penny, teacher in 601
École Maurice L Duplessis.