An outdoor classroom at Langley Meadows brings kids closer to nature within their learning environment. The Campbell River School Board is looking at investing funds to offer more outdoor learning opportunities in the district. Black Press file photo

Island educators want to decompress the classroom by exploring outdoor learning opportunities

Campbell River trustees interested in investing funds for outdoor classrooms and programs

A Campbell River Board of Education trustee wants the district to look into funding outdoor classrooms and outdoor learning programs. During the first regular school board meeting of the academic calendar on Sept. 8, Trustee Daryl Hagen asked the board to earmark up to a quarter of a million dollars for the cause.

“I really believe that we need to somehow decompress the classroom,” he said, “and if we can create a long-lasting legacy in the midst of chaos, I think we should try for it.”

Hagen said he thought district schools had already done some work in the area of outdoor learning, but wanted to throw some funds behind the effort of taking kids outside the classroom into well, the great outdoors.

RELATED: Greater Victoria teachers calling for schools to close due to poor air quality

“There’s been some interest across the province and I’ve seen what going outside, taking your math class for instance outside, and you are actually using the physical outdoors to create your math problems,” he said. “Some children learn differently than others.”

He put forward a motion to set aside up to $250,000 to help get classes outside.

“If we had some resources which would allow each school to move forward in this area,” he said. “Perhaps it’s physical structures that we put so that we can take the children outside even in weather that’s Campbell River weather.”

When questioned by board chair Richard Franklin about where the funds would come from, Hagen said the district had just received money from the federal government through its Safe Return to Class Fund.

The district is set to receive $972,654 in the first allocation of the funds, which can be used for a variety of things including outdoor learning spaces, more staffing and buying personal protective equipment. A spokesperson for the district said they’re hopeful the December allocation will be about the same amount, but said they haven’t received official confirmation of the exact amount.

RELATED: Parents, educators push for outdoor learning experiments to address COVID fears

Hagen’s motion was seconded by trustee Joyce McMann, who said she supported the idea of outdoor education and learning outside, but questioned why such a large amount of money was needed.

“I’m definitely a huge enthusiast for both outdoor education and education outside,” she said. “I think that if we’re going to build buildings outside, then we have to be really careful that we’re not taking people outside and then creating a building around them.”

Trustee John Kerr was also supportive of the idea of outdoor learning spaces, but wanted more background information before voting on the motion. He asked that discussion be reserved until the next meeting when they could have a better idea of how the money would be spent.

The issue is expected to return at the Sept. 29 school board meeting.

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