Master of Education students from the Nelson UBC campus have been exploring different communities in the area as they develop place-based teaching techniques.
Students were in Castlegar on Friday and Rossland on Monday for their Education Beyond the Classroom class. They were able to take advantage of the community resources in each city, with a group of students leading each outing.
In Castlegar, the students — who are also working teachers — connected the arts and community involvement by visiting the Castlegar Sculpturewalk.
“The emphasis was to use the community as an education … jump off point for art and culture and we had the kids — our classmates in the role of kids — go through the Sculpturewalk,” explained Jennifer MacDonald, K-2 teacher, librarian and outdoor education resource support teacher at West Boundary Elementary in Rock Creek.
The students heard from Joy Barrett, executive director of the Castlegar Sculpturewalk, and also went to Millennium Park.
“We also used the Millennium Park to bring together the community and outdoor education with the Sculpturewalk,” said Sam Levich, Grade 8-12 teacher at Stanley Humphries Secondary School in Castlegar.
While at the park, students tried making their own sculptures.
Treena Moorey from Castlegar Primary and Carmen Giffen from South Nelson Elementary were also part of the group that demonstrated how the Sculpturewalk could be used an educational resource.
In Rossland, the Master of Education students explored resources for teaching kids about the environment and ecology.
Their first stop was at the Jubilee Wetland, where they explored the ponds.
“We brought everyone here to the wetland to look for different invertebrate samples and different types of aquatic insects, to test the water quality of the different ponds and the water temperature, showing them what field study can look like in our classrooms,” said Bailey Peters, Grade 1-2 teacher at Webster Elementary in Warfield and member of the group leading the Rossland excursion.
She has done a similar activity with her own students out at Pass Creek and her fellow group member, Jen Wyatt, kindergarten teacher at Rossland Summit School (RSS), has had the chance to bring her students out to Jubilee Wetland to make observations.
“Throughout the year last year we’ve come to the wetlands and [we] observe it, draw it, see it in all the different seasons as well, so it was kind of neat for the kids to see it in the winter and especially in the spring seeing everything pop up and how lush it got,” said Wyatt.
The master’s students also heard a presentation from Laurie Frankcom, education program coordinator for the Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society (CKISS).
Frankcom discussed ways that teachers could teach kids about invasive species in the classroom and suggested having students map local invasive species near their school.
Afterward, the students headed over to the KC Trail to learn about edible and medicinal plants.
Jess Foster from RSS and Kyle Wheeler, science teacher at J.L. Crowe, were also part of the group that organized the Rossland outing.
Wheeler explained that place-based learning is important because it works as a conduit to the community.
“The important thing about place-based learning is that it connects students with their local community,” he said. “So in terms of the high school, when you’re teaching them about abstract environments that maybe they might not have a close connection to, it makes it much more relevant when they’re in the place and you can walk outside the school or your font door or anywhere into your community and you really are connecting to those ideas.”
Place-based learning is a big part of the Master of Education program and the Education Beyond the Classroom class puts the focus on teacher inquiry.
“It really is a teacher-inquiry-based class. These students have generated the topics that we’re going to be learning in depth,” said Dr. Vicki Green, professor emeritus and teacher of Education Beyond the Classroom.
For more information on UBC’s educational studies programs, visit edst.educ.ubc.ca.