Get outside: Teachers get creative to explore great outdoors

·3 min read

Two teachers at Rothesay Park School will be able to get their students outside and moving with the help of new grants.

Julie Cyr, who teaches art, wellness and French, was awarded a $1,250 Innovation and Engagement Grant from the Anglophone South School District. With that, she bought outdoor classroom equipment, including clipboards, tarps and rope.

"The planet is in great need of some change. And research is showing that students or kids who spend time outside in nature, form bonds with nature," Cyr said.

She also received a First Nations Education Grant from ASD-S for $3,000 to purchase drums kits. Once the region returns to the yellow phase of COVID recovery, Cyr said she'll bring in an elder to teach the kids how to make the instruments and how to play them, as well as teach lessons about sharing circles and First Nations culture.

Meanwhile, her colleague Jeanette Fisher, who teaches music and physical education, has received four grants for a project to overcome the obstacles of gym classes during the pandemic.

With the school district encouraging teachers to stay away from team sports during the pandemic, Fisher found she couldn't use many of the regular equipment she would use for her gym classes.

"I was thinking, 'What can I do? What kind of sports can I do that will engage the kids and keep them active during this time?'" she said.

So Fisher decided to give the kids sticks and get them to try drumming with them. So far the kids love it.

"It helps the body, the brain, and for the students, it helps strengthen the heart and the lungs, and increases muscular strength and endurance," Fisher said. "It builds brain connections, promotes social emotional learning, improves coordination. And with the student, it builds confidence and self-expression."

Fisher received a $500 Education Improvement Grant for online training for cardio drumming, a $1,800 Innovation and Improvement Grant, and a $1,500 Teacher-Designed Professional Learning Grant. Those grants will go toward a training course, equipment and the continued development of integrating the drumming into courses.

Fisher also received a $1,000 grant to purchase an iPad, which allows students to use GarageBand on the iPad to compose music.

Fisher said drumming also gives an opportunity for kids who aren't getting regular exercise or participating in team sports like usual. Less exercise, she said, is affecting their social, emotional and mental well-being.

Cyr said she's nice to be able to get outside during the pandemic, which has kept many people inside. She hopes to secure grant funding in the future to create an outdoor classroom as well.

In the meantime, she plans to lay some groundwork for teachers through her new programming to get their kids outside, and she's open to letting other teachers use her equipment for their classes.

"It's maybe a stress reliever to be outside. But [for teachers] it can also be just an extra thing to plan and prepare for," she said.

"And I think it's what I'm hoping to do with this is to create an easier way for teachers to be able to go outside"

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. L'initiative de journalisme local est financée par le gouvernement du Canada.

Caitlin Dutt, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal