Students learn about the environment in its natural setting
The Grade 7 class at Willowdale Christian School embarked on its first canoe trip on the French River this June, providing students the opportunity to experience a rich interdisciplinary learning environment and build their self-confidence, says teacher Guy Morey.
Morey, who has taught at the North York school for two years, says he has been to the French River, which flows from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay, several times and organized a similar trip at his previous school. He proposed the idea to the Willowdale’s education committee last fall and received support for the trip.
Ten students and eight adults went on the June 16-19 trip. They stayed the first night at a fishing lodge in Parry Sound, and then had a two and a half hour paddle to a Crown land island on the river, where they set up their campsite.
The trip was a success and there are plans to make it an annual outing, says Morey.
Morey incorporated the canoe trip into his teaching, including the subjects of ecology, geography, history, physical education, art, math and leadership skills. Throughout the year he would explain to students about the different things they would see and do while camping.
“It was unbelievable that the kids were able to experience all of this,” says Morey, adding the students were able to make a lot of the connections to what they learned in the classroom.
As many of the students live in the city, it was the first time some of them had slept in a tent or a sleeping bag, and see amphibians and reptiles like toads and water snakes.
One of the organized activities was a game of Survivor, which included challenges such as eating foreign foods, a canoe race, a swim race and treasure hunt.
Morey says from the students’ feedback he has the sense the trip exceeded their expectations. Some students expressed to him how much more they appreciate things like running water and a bed. He says he was amazed at how the students took seriously his advice to responsibly look after their belongings such as their utensils for meals.
The trip gave students an opportunity to develop a greater sense of inner awareness and understand their ability to adjust to or adapt to circumstances, he says.
“I think that for each student (who participated) it gives them an opportunity to challenge themselves in a completely new and foreign environment, and especially as they go into Grade 8 (it is beneficial) to help build that greater confidence,” says Morey.
The trip also provided students a chance to see their classmates in a new environment and develop closer friendships.
“We have a very close-knit community of families in our school and experiences like this I think really helps develop better friendships,” he says.
There was also a lot of support from the parent volunteers, including a parent whose children are not in Grade 7 yet but wanted to go on the trip.
“It’s nice to know there are so many parents who are willing to give the time and the energy to support the school and allow these kids to participate in events like this,” he says.
To learn more about Willowdale, visit www.willowdalechristianschool.org.