The way Raft River elementary students learn may be a little different in the future if an offer for an outdoor learning area is successful.
Elementary school teacher Elizabeth Shook announced on August 19 that School Board 73 had approved the construction of an outdoor classroom structure on the school grounds.
Not only will the new classroom structure provide a learning environment that supports their current outdoor education, while allowing students to get a breath of fresh air, it will also be available to community members at use and enjoy.
The project is in the funding phase with an objective of $ 170,000. So far, they have raised $ 34,000 through donations from the Wells Gray Community Forest as well as the Sikh community. Several grants to help achieve the goal have also been requested, and the group is also seeking local contributions.
The outdoor learning structure has been in the works for about five years by both the Raft River Elementary PAC and the Raft River Outdoor Education Committee. A grant was provided by the WGCF to hire a consultant to help create their final design. Since the space would be primarily for students, two “Maker Day” events were held, giving children the opportunity to design and create the outdoor learning classroom of their dreams.
“We gave the morning to plan in small groups and go through the design steps a designer would take, ask the questions, think about potential problems, what materials you might need, and then they actually had to build a model,” a Shook said in a classroom video, filmed by local Ken Matheson. “We wanted the children to own it. We wanted their advice.
Kindergarten to grade 7 students participated in the activity.
After getting feedback from teachers, community members, and parents, a final design concept was created.
The COVID-19 pandemic put the brakes on the structure’s progress, but it highlighted the importance of having an outdoor space for students to learn and breathe fresh air. Another element of the outdoor learning space is that children learn by doing and experiencing things firsthand. .
The outdoor classroom is not the first time Raft River teachers have taken their lessons outdoors. Several learning stations have been established around the school grounds, where children can learn about the natural environment.
“The other thing that’s really special about our design is that it’s not just a structure – it’s an area that kids can interact with and just learn by just being in. this environment, ”Shook said.
The school grounds include wetlands, a pollinator garden, and the children planted 12 native conifers last spring to create a learning forest.
Parents also expressed their support for the outdoor space, noting that children who learn the environment from an early age will grow up to appreciate it more.
“The more connected children are, the more compassionate and caring they become as adults,” said Julia Bonnamour in the video. “With the state of the world, we need more environmentally conscious people and we need more compassionate and connected people.”
The project is currently in the fundraising phase, and Shook said building permits will also be sought soon, with concrete components for the structure being completed in November. If all goes as planned, she added, construction of the structure could begin in April 2022. The proposed completion date is May 2022.
Special thanks to the Wells Gray Community Forest, the Sikh community, the Clearwater Rotary Club, the Raft River Outdoor Committee, the Kamloops-North Thompson School Board and the Raft River Parent Advisory Board.
“The project couldn’t go ahead without their support,” Shook said.