Future educators share outdoor learning ideas with the community – The Brock News

A class of Brock students recently enjoyed the fresh air at Ball’s Falls Conservation Area — while sharing ideas to help local children do the same.

Students in CHYS 2P16: Principles of Community Involvement in Education spent the last day of the fall semester sharing their research and enjoying the natural wonders of the Niagara Conservation Area.

The event marked the conclusion of a semester project in which sophomores in the Department of Child and Adolescent Studies explored two key areas in support of the educational programs offered by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA).

Working in groups, the students explored how the NPCA’s nature school, day camps and excursions could provide children and youth with improved and fairer access to green spaces and new ways of promoting the development of environmental protection among children and youth.

Brock students recently spent the day at Ball’s Falls Conservation Area sharing their ideas for outdoor learning with the community.

The students then put together posters on which they presented their research results and suggested possible innovations. On April 8, the class gathered at Ball’s Falls to display their posters, observe their peers’ results, and enjoy the natural surroundings.

Assistant Professor Heather Ramey says the poster presentation allowed the students’ work to be shared not only with their peers, but also with NPCA educators and stakeholders, as well as other members of the public who visited the exhibit the following weekend.

“Looking at both accessibility and how we build environmental stewardship led to really good research, and then the students connected the research to education and the community,” says Ramey. “These two research questions were a beautiful amalgamation of what is needed in the community and from an educational perspective.”

Alicia Powell, Manager of Conservation Area Services at the NPCA, says she is excited to be working with Ramey and her students on the project, which aligns with many of the priorities outlined in the NPCA’s Strategic Plan released earlier this year.

“One of the things that the NPCA recognizes in our outdoor education program is the importance of alternative educational opportunities to get students, children, youth and adults outside and active,” says Powell. “The class explored the equity and increased access to green spaces for environmental and outdoor education and the benefits not only in terms of children’s health and well-being, cognition and learning, but also the benefits to our environment and to Responsibility now and in the future.”

Allison Serrao, a French sophomore in the Concurrent Education program, says learning about the ways for children to engage in the natural environment opened her eyes to the importance of outdoor activities.

“What I learned most from working on the project is how much influence nature has on the development and growth of young people,” she says. “Being surrounded by nature has many advantages.”

The students identified a range of issues and opportunities, from the development of take-home and classroom kits to improved transportation to access conservation areas.

“The work has produced some phenomenal concrete and tangible suggestions for ways organizations like the NPCA and some of our other partners can work together to improve the ways people connect with nature,” says Powell. “Some suggestions on the posters about working with municipalities to improve transportation to green spaces align closely with a recently released provincial report. Access for people in concentrated settlements is limited in Niagara compared to other communities — so it’s really important to do this research and look at what we’re offering across Niagara.”

Ramey says the posters were all captured in a digital format so both the students and the NPCA can keep them for future reference.

Both Ramey and Serrao commented on how enjoyable their on-site experience at Ball’s Falls was, although Serrao was startled by one of its residents skidding.

“It was amazing to see the different posters there and the weather was beautiful, so I enjoyed the hike – it wasn’t too far to the falls and the water was beautiful too,” says Serrao. “Only downside was I saw a snake which scared me but I laughed afterwards. Overall I liked the experience.”

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