The school of nature, to cultivate the natural curiosity of our students

On August 16, the CréaCamp Ottawa was held in an original place to say the least: a sugar shack! About thirty education professionals gathered at the Muséoparc de Vanier to explore, discover, reflect on and develop new educational approaches.

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On August 16, the CréaCamp Ottawa was held, organized by the Center Franco-Ontarien de ressources Pédagogiques (CFORP) in collaboration with École Branchée in an original place: a sugar shack! About thirty education professionals from Ontario and Quebec gathered at the Muséoparc de Vanier in Ottawa to explore, discover, reflect on and develop new pedagogical approaches.

By Sylvie Le Bidel Sallenave

After a historical discovery of the venue (one of the few French-speaking museums outside Quebec in Canada and a French-speaking bastion in Ontario), it was necessary to make a choice among the four workshops offered by the team of facilitators:

  • The school of nature, to cultivate the natural curiosity of our students with Julie McLean and Valérie Major
  • An idea behind the head with Dominic P. Tremblay
  • Math as you've never known it! with Jules Bonin-Ducharme
  • What if we built from the passions of our students with Élaine Lucas and Sylvie Labrèche

My choice fell on the school of nature. Why this choice? I am a technopedagogue at the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Center-Est (CECCE) in Ottawa, that is to say, I support the use of digital tools for teachers in the classroom. The philosophy of the CréaCamp being to be able to discover new practices and dare to take part in experiences that one would not necessarily live on a daily basis, to develop one's creativity and then to be able to return to practice, rich in this new knowledge, I told myself that just getting out of the classroom could be very enriching for my own practices.

My participation in this workshop thus allowed me to have a double posture: 

  • as an active participant by fully living the experience; 
  • as an observant technopedagogue, reflecting on how, in this context, I could possibly integrate digital tools.

Inquiry-based learning in nature makes it possible to make connections and explore different areas, but in a "classroom space" that is not partitioned: arts, sciences, numeracy, literacy... Natural curiosity is heightened and the senses are awakening in contact with nature.

This approach also encourages the development of resilience by adapting to changes (climate, for example), by overcoming difficulties, by developing skills, but also by promoting student autonomy, collaboration and leadership development.

What educational interest in the integration of digital tools in a natural classroom context?

As soon as the theme was presented in the sugar shack, I noticed that the facilitators used one or more digital tools because, to arouse the desire to participate, they presented a short film on the students' experiences.

So I wanted to know more and when I went to question them, one of them said to me: “photos, note-taking, digital I can't do without. It is important to collect evidence of learning ”.

These famous proofs of learning! In Ontario, the Ministry of Education provides school boards with a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), which allows us, among other things, to collect evidence of learning. Through the Portfolio tool, students can collect their evidence which is immediately integrated into their virtual space and validated by the teacher who can also make observations. The idea of having one or more tablet (s) available to students, for example, can thus make it possible to take pictures.

Other uses can also emerge directly during a session: some applications allow you to know the name of flowers or trees immediately or even to do online research. Nevertheless, it is necessary in this case to provide a terminal allowing access to an Internet network. These actions can therefore be deferred when returning to the physical location equipped with the network.

Thanks to a tablet, it is also possible to record nature sounds: birdsong, footsteps in the leaves in autumn, wind in the trees, just as many sounds that can be reused later for sound sequences. One tool for multiple applications.

During discussions with the facilitators, they also told me about an experience of video surveys carried out by the students. We can thus imagine going further in the uses by producing video reports, radio programs or even podcasts. These possibilities promote the development of student speaking, but also feedback in writing (notably through an online or paper "writer's notebook").

We also had the opportunity to discuss the uses of social networks. Thus one of the facilitators, using Twitter to present a project set up following the reading of a story, had a feedback from the author herself, beginning of exchanges which finally allowed the students to meet her! A very nice experience.

Here is an overview of this day of CréaCamp. I wish you such rich and interesting days. The multiple exchanges and the various feedbacks throughout the day allow a real added value of the work between peers and the central role of the facilitators! 

See you soon for a next edition! 

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