No bells, no classrooms: outdoor school in Interior B.C. bringing kids back to nature
The public school still follows B.C. curriculum but through a different lens
A new elementary school with a focus on learning outdoors has opened in Salmon Arm, B.C., and parents are scrambling to sign up.
South Canoe Elementary is an "outdoor school" that spans from kindergarten to Grade 6, part of School District 83 in the North Okanagan-Shuswap region.
More than 100 students have enrolled for this year and others are on the growing wait list.
Principal Isabelle Gervais said an outdoor school is like any other and will follow the full B.C. curriculum. "We're just doing it through the nature's lens."
The public school still uses a main building as a base. Because it's set in a rural area surrounded by trails and trees, it sends students outside for up to 85 per cent of the time, depending on the weather.
Right now, heading into fall, students are outdoors between 30 to 50 per cent of the time, Gervais said, and being outside so much improves their general wellbeing.
The teachers lead the classes outdoors, following the same curriculum as other schools in the district, but incorporate elements of nature to drive the lessons home.
In a typical day, the students can go from exploring a nearby creek for a science lesson to heading out on field trips throughout the neighbouring communities.
"We just feel like that it's a healthy environment for kids," Gervais told Chris Walker, the host of CBC's Daybreak South.
"When they are writing or doing some of the academics, they tend to be more focused."
Even inside the building, there are no set classrooms — just open workshop spaces that teachers book.
The day begins with the banging of a drum, rather than the typical ringing bell, to gather students in the field for any announcements.
"Then students go off with their teachers," Gervais said.
"The community here has been very receptive about us using their creeks, their ponds and forested areas."
If the school continues to prove popular, she said, there is a possibility of expanding and adding a few grades up.
With files from Daybreak South.