By Anna Smith
In the native prairies of southern Alberta, Ralston School has a unique opportunity to connect to a biome unlike that of many other places on Earth, and with their ongoing Outdoor Learning project, they aim to do just that.
The project focuses on connecting the school community with the southern Alberta environment, using opportunities in the local area to build an appreciation for where we live and create an understanding of Indigenous cultures’ connection with the land and natural environment, said Ralston School Principal Stacey Nunweiler.
The possibility began in 2012, said Nunweiler, and since then, while the heart of the project has remained the same, the approach has been fine-tuned.
“In the beginning, we began the project with the development of an outdoor education option course for our junior high students. We then began planting into development with the base on the outdoor classroom,” said Nunweiler.
“Our final stage is an Indigenous garden that was planned by our students,” said Nunweiler. “They worked with the base and Whitebear Creations to choose appropriate plants to put into the garden and have finally started the process as the weather has warmed up.”
This is the third year it’s been a part of the curriculum, said Nunweiler, and from propagating plants to cooking over an open fire, the program has been a wild success.
“They’ve also done several outdoor education trips, this one’s to Cypress Hills. They stayed in cabins this time but they have tents, and hammocks, so outdoor, real outdoor cooking and stuff. And then they visited Dinosaur Provincial Park, as well as Police Point Park,” said Nunweiler.
The focus has been spread across many of the different courses in the school, from CTF classes to watching bubbles freeze in elementary science, to identifying different snake species with the help of a goal expert, all with the continued goal of instilling wonder and appreciation for the natural world that surrounds them.
“As we move forward next year, we’re hoping to make even more connections and document them on our website,” said Nunweiler. The school has also been working on a promotional video, which is located on the Suffield Canadian Armed Forces base, which has also been going exceptionally well, and in no small part thanks to the Outdoor Learning project, has many, many highlights from over the past few years to choose from.