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Winter in an Outdoor Classroom

Published on February 24, 2011

Students at Holyrood making an army of snowmen! (Photo: Suzanne PrĂ©fontaine)Students at Holyrood making an army of snowmen! (Photo: Suzanne Préfontaine)

Large snow falls and temperatures well below freezing can be enough to make anyone want to hibernate for the season. Some outdoor classrooms can be left buried and vacant for the winter but some Canadian schools have demonstrated that it doesn’t have to be so!

Holyrood School in Edmonton has been working for many years on making their school ground an active outdoor learning area. Kathy Goble, one of Evergreen’s School Ground Greening Consultants, has been working with the school since 2005 and seen them add elements like a beautiful mosaic bench (featured in one of our Outdoor Classroom Newsletters) to their continuously growing learning landscape. In order to encourage year round outdoor learning, the school has planned to create a Winter Garden – designated for winter activities with native trees and shrubs able to thrive in Canadian winters. The trees and shrubs haven’t been planted yet – but that didn’t stop students and teachers from getting out onto the school ground for a little winter fun. Vice-Principal Suzanne Préfontaine explains:

It was quite amazing to see about 100 students outside on my office window one Friday afternoon in January. I had invited staff to bring students outside into our new courtyard area to build me a Snowman Garden. I have a lovely window in my office that looked out onto a snow pile. Grade 1 to 6 students worked side by side to make a variety of snowmen. My view definitely improved and it was nice to have “smiling” snowmen looking at me while I did paperwork at my table! I reminded teachers that they could build a new winter garden for our Carnaval - a French cultural opportunity that we provide our students with every year to celebrate our French Immersion and French as a Second Language students. It is modeled after the Carnaval held every February in Quebec City. During the Week of February 28 to March 2, our students will participate in sampling French Canadian pea soup, see a French performance and participate in a day of outdoor games.

Holyrood is just one of many schools across the country that hasn’t let the cold temperatures and snow impact their use of the outdoor classroom. Do you have ideas about how to get kids engaged in learning activities throughout the winter? Please share!