Nature, Community, and Art


This week new ideas about outdoor education were taught. On Tuesday, students from Prairie Sky School came and had class with us. It was interesting to learn about their experiences in school. Since Prairie Sky School is art, nature, and community based, their mission fits well with the nature and community aspects of Outdoor education that we have embraced this semester. The art-based aspect is something that was new to us, but after doing the Joe Fafard activity with the taproots students, I see how art can fit into nature and community. Talking about our individual interpretations of the structure and then embodying them helped create a sense of community. The Joe Fafard structure reinforced the idea of relating the outdoors to history. Each panel depicted a different scene, and we interpreted them as stories of Canada’s past.

On Thursday, we went to Victoria Park to look at art outside. I really liked how Thursday’s class built on Tuesday’s class by keeping the art theme. Art is interesting because everyone can make their own meaning of it. This weeks reading “Braiding Sweetgrass” made me realize that it doesn’t matter how much information I give my students or how many stories I tell them if they cannot make their own meaning. Art provides an opportunity for meaningful learning experiences. Combining outdoor education and art is important because it disrupts the western way of gaining knowledge. The teacher is not one person that is the single body of knowledge; the teacher in outdoor education art is the land and the students themselves.

Acclimatization and the Changing Environment

Tuesday’s class made me think about acclimatization as the weather changes. This week was about the fourth week that there has been snow on the ground and the temperature has been below minus ten. During the past four classes before today’s class, I have been very cold and miserable in the outdoor setting. However, even though it was just as cold this past Tuesday, I felt comfortable outside. My toes, face, and feet were warm, and I felt as though the class flew by. I have acclimatized to the winter conditions, and I am able to be comfortable outside. Because I was comfortable I paid more attention and was engaged in class. Normalizing being outside is key to acclimatization. It took me almost a full month to adjust to the environmental changes. This is an important learning when considering teaching outdoors. As a teacher, it is important to consider how our students are feeling outside. If they are too cold they will not be able to focus outside, so the class will not be productive. Furthermore, taking your class outside occasionally will not allow the students to adjust to the weather conditions. It is important to make going outside frequent so that the students can enjoy the experience regardless of the weather.

During Tuesday’s class we changed locations to the other side of the bluff of tress. Although, the location was not much different than what we were used to, the feeling of the space was different. It felt more wide open, and it was a space that had different scenery. Changing locations provides for new perspectives and different learning experiences. Although it is important when creating place and community to go to back to the same area, it is refreshing to change it up every once in a while to broaden the learning environment.

Inclusive Education

Three things that I learned…

  1. Inclusive classrooms result in an up to fifteen point grade increase for “typical” kids because when a student is collaborating with a student who has a disability they are more engaged with the material. As well, children who are able to help other kids in school have a deeper understanding of the content.
  2. There are many benefits for a child who has a disability and is included in general classrooms. Included kids have better communication skills, higher academic achievement, wider social networks, and fewer behaviours problems.
  3. Even with all the studies done that prove inclusive classrooms benefit both children with disabilities 56% of kids with intellectual and development disabilities spend their entire day segregated in special education classrooms.

Two connections I made…

Growing up in a small town there was not enough students who had disabilities to have their own separate classroom, and therefore I grew up in inclusive environments throughout my elementary and high school years. The children who had disabilities in my classes were treated basically the same as the “typical” students. Teachers did not let their disability define what the student could or couldn’t do in the class. I think that this gave the students who had a disability a sense of belonging. As a “typical” student, I learned patience, empathy, and understanding because inclusive education. I think there are major benefits to inclusive education and it is a practice that should be done in every classroom.

On Kelsey’s blog, she posed a question asking what I think shapes a person’s identity and how identity plays a role in their education. This semester we have talked a lot about Bronfenbrenner’s bio-ecological model and the impact the microsystem has on a child. I think that your peers, your family, and your school all shape identity because they are the people and places that you interact with the most. A feeling of belonging shapes identity, and the people in the microsystem contribute to belonging.

One question I still have…

How do you deal with parents who think that inclusive education is detrimental to their “typical” child? And how do we normalize diversity in a classroom?

So close to home…

Going to the Regina Indian Industrial School gravesite today made me realize how privileged I am. Often i take for granted all the privileges I have because I am a settler. For years I have learned about residential schools and the impacts they had on the Aboriginal community. I have read the statistics of children who died in residential schools, but have never had a hands-on experience of visiting a residential school site let alone a gravesite of children who attended residential schools. The experience of visiting a gravesite had a greater impact on me than what reading or listening to a story has had. The visit today was a very powerful experience. There was a very somber feeling at the gravesite. It was ironic that today’s weather was so windy and miserable. I can’t help but to connect the feeling outside today to experience aboriginal children had attending the industrial school. The misery that I felt today outside is nothing compared to what the children attending the school felt. The chills and discomfort I felt today was not only due to the wind but it was because of the heavy story that we were dealing with. All the stuffed animals that were around the site was something that moved me. It brings into perspective how young and innocent the children who died were. They fell victims to colonization because of their skin colour and culture. This is a heavy colonial story, and I believe it is a story that everyone needs to know.

In addition, there is symbolic meaning as with where the gravesite is located. Though it many be a coincidence, I think that it is significant that the Paul Dojack Youth Centre is close to the gravesite. I think that says something about that particular space. That space has been used to marginalize and colonize Aboriginal people since the early 1900’s and continues to do that. It is unfortunate that Aboriginal children are going to continue to be victims of colonialism until there story is told and there is a change in society. I believe that education is the first step to making a change. As a future educator, I can be a voice for the children whose lives were lost. I can pass the stories along to the student I teach, and have them understand the horrific events that took place so close to home.

The Secret Path

Three Things that I learned…

  1. In the song haunt them, haunt them, haunt them Downie sings, “I see how they are [children in residential school], how they lost their soul.” From this I learned that if you strip someone of their culture you are actually stripping them of self. We are what our culture makes us. When Aboriginal children were taken to residential school they were stripped of culture, which made them lose their identity, sense of self, and worth.
  2. I learned our country has been built on the myth that Indigenous people are “less than” or deficient, which led to the residential schooling, and land theft. This myth has been so powerful. Telling stories and having people listen to them is a way of pushing back and going against the myth. Listening to stories and deconstructing myths is the key to moving forward in terms of reconciliation.
  3. I learned that railways were used to establish Canada, but they were also used to take children away from their families and sent to residential schools. Trains are seen as railways of tears. The railway is a powerful, symbolic object in the secret path narrative.

Two Connections I made…

  • Last week we talked about “sensitive” or “touchy” subjects when discussing gender and sexual diversity. Once again, I feel as though the topic of residential schools and Canada’s colonial history is a touchy subject. As future teachers we cannot shy away from these topics because they may be uncomfortable to talk about. It is important that we are engaging with these topics. The panel discussion explained that it is okay to feel uncomfortable because being uncomfortable put us in a space of learning. The panel discussed that we need to embrace discomfort to move forwards as a nation who lives in harmony, respects each other, and loves each other.
  • Also, in this panel discussion it is explained that colonialism has a great ability to blind everyone to the truth. To create a myth to support its own wake. Canada still lives with this myth and we need to start the conversations about our countries past to confront the myths. We as a nation are still in the beginning stages of reconciliations. I feel as though Treaty education in school is a way for settlers, and Indigenous people to walk on a path to reconciliation together. Treaty education is a way to confront the truth and work through the legacy of colonialism.

One Question I still have…

How can we teach students about Canada’s colonial past without putting blame, guilt, or shame on students who are European settlers, but rather have students understand the impacts of colonialism/residential schools with empathy, respect, and love?

Student Led Facilitations

This week our student led facilitations came to a close. I want to use this weeks post to reflect on the purpose of the facilitations and what I learned in regards to outdoor education, Treaty education, and interdisciplinary learning. I found that the facilitations conducted this semester were engaging, educational, and fun. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn from future colleagues and with future colleagues. I think the purpose of this assignment was not only to teach a lesson, but to see how you can incorporate many subjects into outdoor activities. Outdoor education does not always have to be physical education activities. Learning outdoors can be as simple as writing a haiku poem outside with the nature that surrounds us. Not only were they engaging, but also they all incorporated our colonial past in some way. Many of the lessons had us learning about the people who lived on and with the land before European settlers came. Many facilitations had us discussing difficult topics when it comes to our colonial past. Newberry states, “working with difficult knowledge demands that we primarily consider how learners engage with and respond to knowledge, instead of simply asking them to accumulate it” (p. 40). In the student led facilitations we discussed topics that our Canadian society deems as sensitive or touchy. We approached these topics with humility, acceptance, empathy, and understanding. This was special because often speaking about our colonial past leads to feelings of blame, and anger. Overall, I thought that the student led facilitations were a good experience for all of us.

Gender and Sexual Diversity

Three things I learned…

  1. It is heterosexual educators who must be the first to eradicate homophobia and heterosexism because heterosexuality gives a measure of privacy and protection that gay, lesbian, and bisexual teachers and professor do not possess.
  2. I learned that issues of sexuality affects all students, not only because one hopes that schools do not want to educate generations of bigoted youth, but also because students should gain a better understanding of the spectrum of sexualities. All students need to be educated on sexual diversity to foster inclusion, and eliminate “othering”. When school accept homophobia and heterosexism, we rob students of the opportunity to reach past their own prejudices and assumptions.
  3. We cannot tolerate the LGBTQ+ community. Tolerance is to allow the existence, presence, practice, or act of without prohibition or hindrance, or to put up with something. To tolerate puts a divide between two groups. It creates separation and lacks understanding. It makes one group superior and the other inferior. Teaching to tolerate the LGBTQ+ community is not what should be practiced in schools. We need to teach students to accept, and understand diversity, not just tolerate it.


Two connections I made…

During my elementary, and high school years, there was no discussion of the LGBTQ+ community. When talking about families, same sex marriages were never mentioned. Coming from a Catholic dominant community, LGBTQ+ issues were never discussed and it was almost seen as something shameful. I think that this led to students who did identify as a part of the LGBTQ+ community to feel isolated. I think that if queer pedagogy had been brought into the class, there would not have been the stigma around it. Queer pedagogy is inclusion to all sexual and gender minorities in the classroom and I believe that it should be incorporated in every school not matter what the religious views are.

This article made me think of heterosexism in society today. The articles we read this week were from 1996 and 2009. It was interesting to compare those two times periods to today’s society. I believe that heterosexism is still present in today schools, curriculum, and workplaces. Textbooks still always use “he” or “she” which leaves out gender diversity. Even public washrooms in most places are separated into male or female. From the time that children can go to the washroom they are influenced into seeing gender as a binary. However, there is a way to shift the paradigm and change society. By having conversations, educating and bringing gender diversity into schools we can end the “othering” of the LGBTQ+ community.

One question I still have…

How can I bring queer pedagogy into my future classroom? How do you implement these conversations about diversity if you are in a school or under an administration that has “traditional” views on gender and sexual diversity?