Outdoor elementary school to open in Salmon Arm, B.C.

A new outdoor school program will open in Salmon Arm in September, allowing elementary students to spend part of each day outside.

School will open in September at the previously closed South Canoe Elementary School site

The closed South Canoe Elementary School, now called the South Canoe Centre, will house the outdoor education program. (Google Maps)

Elementary school students in Salmon Arm, B.C., will soon have the option of taking their lessons outside, with the opening of a new outdoor learning centre in September.

The North Okanagan-Shuswap school district recently approved the plan based on community desire as well as space and budget considerations.

"Kids would stay there from kindergarten to Grade 6 and they would spend a portion of every day outdoors," said Ceren Caner, one of the teachers behind the proposal.

"Our capacity to retain information, to think laterally and to be creative is enhanced by spending time outside. It makes us happier."

School District 83 spent a year looking at research that shows the benefit of outdoor learning. Similar outdoor programs  exist in Vancouver and Langley.

"When we're moving and we're physical, it gets blood flowing to our brain and so many studies have shown that this benefits learning across the spectrum," said Caner.

'This type of thing really works'

More than 400 local parents expressed interested in the idea in an online survey, said a school district official.

The district was also looking for alternative options as the area deals with added enrolment and a "space challenge."

"Those things coming together really were the impetus to initiate this program," said Carl Cooper, director of instruction for School District 83.

He also said it is cheaper to reopen the closed South Canoe Elementary school than to install portables for the outdoor school.

"We do need to put some one-time costs in because the school has been closed for awhile, so we do need to go in and do some renovations," said Cooper.

"But overall, the startup costs would be less than putting portables in over the next few years."

Caner said registration is expected to begin next month with hiring completed soon after that. 

He will be one of the teachers involved in the new program and he says he is looking forward to the experience.

"There's a huge movement going on globally right now to connect kids to nature and I'm really excited to be part of this large movement," he said.

"People are seeing that this type of thing really works."

With files from CBC's Daybreak South.

About the Author

Jaimie Kehler

Jaimie Kehler is a web writer, producer and broadcaster based in Kelowna, B.C. She has also worked for CBC News in Toronto and Ottawa. To contact her with a story, email jaimie.kehler@cbc.ca.