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West Kelowna school adopts play concept as teaching tool

Elementary school creates outdoor classroom for Grade 4-8 students
Educators are actively looking at creating outdoor learning experiences outside of the classroom to engage with their students. (File photo)

The education concept of ‘learning through play’ has been embraced with positive results by a West Kelowna elementary school.

Ecole Hudson Road Elementary is a member of the Canadian Playful Schools Network, one of 41 schools across Canada connected via a grant program from the LEBO Foundation to explore how learning through play can increase Grade 4-8 student engagement and well-being.

The grant money was allocated to support staff at participating schools to connect with one another and towards the purchase of materials or equipment for learning through play projects, the network being the first-of-its-kind initiative in the world.

Representatives from each participating school also attended a two-day conference in Ottawa in June to share insight about their school projects and what was learned.

At the Central Okanagan Board of Education meeting held Sept. 13, Ecole Hudson Road Elementary principal Lindsey Hamilton was joined by teachers Jennie Hill, Donna Cornell, Melanie Goughnour and Alex Mitchell to talk about their school’s project, the creation of an outdoor classroom which continues to be developed and enhanced.

The teachers summed up the importance of play to learning as a lifelong objective with this quote: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.”

The critical learning aspects of a 21st-century learner – critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication – all were generated by students through their involvement with the use and planning of the outdoor classroom concept, the teachers told trustees.

The school staff feels this type of play allows us to take our learning outdoors into our environment, allows students to explore their curiosities, gives students agency in their learning, promotes self-regulation and allows students to make sense of their learning through past experiences and connections.

The play-based learning concept is currently being championed by Andy Hargreaves, a visiting professor at the University of Ottawa and research professor at Boston College in the U.S.

Hargreaves has written several books on the topic and has been funded by the LEGO Foundation to create a network of 40-plus schools across Canada looking at ways to enhance student engagement and learning.

He visited Ecole Hudson Road Elementary earlier this year to see the school’s project at work.

“He saw what we were doing and has followed up with emails several times,” said Hamilton.

Kevin Kaardal, Central Okanagan Public Schools superintendent/CEO, said school staff should not be surprised if their project becomes a chapter in a future book by Hargreaves.

“This is a topic where a massive amount of research has been done,” Kaardal noted.

Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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