Once again the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) hit a home run .. with a snowball in a snowstorm! It was hard to miss the invitation this year:
But if you did miss it, just stick a Mitten on your 2019 calendar and get ready for next February!
This is only one of the Outdoor Education workshops the SCDSB has staged for its teachers since the initiative began in 2014. Under the guidance of Superintendent Paula Murphy and program leaders Sandy Clee and Julie Fisher, an incredible team of staff and volunteers including Becky, Cathern, Crystal, Jessica, and Marsha put together a full day event three times a year. Teachers losing hope for the future of outdoor education Professional Development opportunities in Ontario, take heart – it is alive and well in Simcoe County.
Picture over a hundred educators enthusiastically and voluntarily coming together on a Saturday in the fall, winter, and spring to learn how to engage their students in that natural world outside of those four classroom walls. The events are appropriately named Hands in the Dirt, Mittens in the Snow, and Singing in the Rain.
Over the years, the conference has taken place at different venues, including the grounds of the Board Office. But a partnership with the Beausoleil First Nation, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) and the Ministry of Natural Resources has given them access to Springwater Provincial Park and the Tiffin Centre for Conservation. Mittens was held at Tiffin this year and it was magical.
Besides the hundred plus educators from various Boards who attended, there were also dignitaries from the Ministry of Education and the Simcoe Board who dropped by to visit, including Director Steve Blake. And for those of us used to the local trustee stopping by for a quick handshake, the Chair of the Board, Trustee Peter Beacock spent the entire day with his teachers.
Talented facilitators like the unsinkable Bonnie Anderson who started us off with a rousing rendition of the song “Hibernation” (with full apologies to the original lyrics from “Alouette”). The highly skilled NVCA staff like Grant Wilson and his incredible quinzee (now of Twitter fame), and Maegan McConnell, who introduced us to the Tiffin porcupines, made the day all the more memorable.
With workshops on everything from winter survival shelter construction to bird feeder building, to kick-sledding, to snowshoeing, to math and science and geography and natural history and the just plain joy of being outdoors, Mittens has it all. Not to mention literacy as author Jacob Rotenburg introduced the award winning book he co-authored with naturalist Drew Monkman called, “The Big Book of Nature Activities”
And then there was that outrageous moment at l;unch when Grant Wilson and I were trying to identify the age and sex of a porcupine by its scat, and Bonnie came by and ate the “scat” much to the shock of the packed lunchroom. More on that at the next conference.
See you in the spring when we’ll be “Singing in the Rain”, and where I’ll be doing a workshop on “scat” identification, and sharing some trade secrets …
;>) Yours outdoors,