Saskatchewan

Outdoor classrooms provide unique learning experience in Saskatchewan

The whole outdoor space is considered a controlled risk area. Students can climb trees and play outside. In the winter they may not read a book out there, but they can cross-country ski and winter camp.

Principal says these classrooms help fight a 'nature deficit' children face

Students work at the outdoor classroom in Stockholm, Sask. (Macdonald School/Submitted to CBC)

It's a breath of fresh air for students in Stockholm, Sask. Their school has created an outdoor classroom, where any class from math to English can be taught.

The space is made out of paving stones and has a small barn. It's built within a bluff of trees and is a big enough space to accommodate all 90 students in the kindergarten to Grade 9 school.

You have this really rich environment around you.- Reg Leidl, school principal

"It just provides you another opportunity to entice you to be outside and learn," said the school principal Reg Leidl.

Leidl said many of his staff are passionate about outdoor learning and were concerned that children no longer played enough outside.

They call it a "nature deficit."

He said the anxiety level of students was high, and this seemed to fit their needs. Now the students seem happier and well adjusted.

"Why can't you go outside and read when it's nice?  Why can't we do math? And lots of times when the kids are outside the lesson just sort of takes off because you have this really rich environment around you [that] you can learn about."

Leidl only believes in positive distractions. While nature can get you off track, he said there's always a new learning opportunity.

"The lessons don't always go the way you thought they might," Leidl said, adding after students spotted tent caterpillars, it gave the teachers an opportunity to talk about what they are and what they do.
Students gather at the Macdonald School outdoor classroom. (Macdonald School/Submitted to CBC)

The whole outdoor space is considered a controlled risk area, Leidl said.  Students can climb trees and play outside. In the winter they may not read a book out there, but they can cross-country ski and winter camp.

The Macdonald School is modelled after one in Churchbridge, Sask., about 212 kilometres east of Regina,  which Leidl also touts as a success.

"Just to learn in sort of a very authentic and natural way," he said.
A conceptual drawing of the Macdonald School outdoor classroom. (Macdonald School/Submitted to CBC)

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