Intertwining Play and Learning: OCSB’s Outdoor Learning Spaces Initiative

Changes are coming to a schoolyard near you! A multi-year project is underway at the OCSB to transform and enrich the outdoor spaces of each of our 87 schools. The Outdoor Learning Spaces initiative aims to support outdoor learning and Indigenous Ways of Knowing in our schools, enhance the variety of elementary school recess activities, and promote our schoolyards’ four-season usage.

Year 1 Laid the Foundation

Last year’s initial phase laid the groundwork for this project. Outdoor wifi is being installed across all schools, enabling students to incorporate technology into their outdoor learning experiences. Partnerships with groups such as Growing Up Organic (raised bed gardening) and Fairchance Learning (technology combined with experiential learning on the land) provided educators with support for various types of outdoor learning activities. Paul Dandavino from Kitigan Zibi, as well as a variety of Elders and Knowledge Keepers, continued to support educators in incorporating Indigenous Ways of Knowing into all the learning done in these outdoor spaces. Schools were encouraged to examine how they can enhance outdoor learning in their yard. Most of our elementary schools opted to receive storage sheds stocked with items that could be used for various types of outdoor learning. These included foam sit pads for outdoor seating and rakes, sieves, and small containers to encourage collecting and exploring.

It’s Time to Design & Build!

In year two of this initiative, the OCSB is delving into the design and build phase. We are collaborating with a local consultant to reimagine schoolyards with a focus on versatility. We are drawing inspiration from the concept of different learning zones within classrooms. The designs will integrate various structures to accommodate multiple activities. For example, a play deck could serve outdoor learning opportunities such as science experiments and observational activities and provide spaces for imaginative play during recess.

Crucially, plans are being developed in consultation with school councils,  students, Indigenous families and staff to ensure that the new design aligns with the unique needs of each school. Construction will commence in the spring, bringing these innovative designs to life.

Next Steps

Next year, the focus will be on completing the transformation of the elementary schoolyards and then continuing the initiative by developing similar plans for our high schools.

More than Meets the Eye

The Outdoor Learning Spaces project provides more than a physical transformation of structures and space. This initiative aligns with our Deep Learning approach to education that fosters creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and so much more. By enriching our schoolyards, we are creating environments that support various types of play, connections with Indigenous Ways of Knowing, and, ultimately, the well-being of our students and staff.

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