CANGeo – Outdoor Education Experience
By Michelle Byrne, Woodstock High School, NB
Last fall, I was assigned to teach Geography of Canada 120 for the first time. I knew that this course would lend itself nicely to outdoor experiential inquiry-based learning, an area that has been strongly encouraged during these COVID-19 times. Located along the St-John River valley in rural New Brunswick, our community is surrounded by gently rolling hills and sweeping hardwood forest, a valley that follows a winding river through the province, gorges, waterfalls and rich soil ideal for agriculture.
As we started to dive into our physical geography unit, I wanted to help my students understand the geological forces and processes which have produced and continue to change our landscape, while giving them the opportunity to develop inquiry skills that engage them in authentic field work. We needed to get outside and start exploring our local environment.
My first step was to reach out to the Meduxnekeag River Association (MRA), a community based non-profit environmental organization that provides tours and free curriculum linked environmental programs to local schools, to see if we could design a workshop geared towards my GeoCan students The association was eager to help and its knowledgeable guides gave us a personalized tour that focused on land formation. Students enjoyed soil sampling to understand the interconnectivity between climate, landforms, vegetation and soil.
We were the first high school class to take part in this type of workshop. During the activity, students collaborated, made observations, and conducted an experiment. Students were divided in 3 groups, given a pack full of tools and a shovel and then led deep into the woods to their “work site”. The guides pointed out that the area was once used to harvest red pines, a very tall self-pruning tree once used as utility poles. Our workshop was such a success, that the MRA is now looking into extending its programming for high schools. The River Association used our results and recorded our data to help monitor soil conditions on the reserve. Students enjoyed the opportunity to interact with experts in this field. And assessment was easy, students physically demonstrated their inquiry skills with a messy, hands on experience.
By Michelle Byrne. Woodstock High School, NB