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Nature School Honoured with National Award

They have created an environment that is a combination of outdoor education, environmental education, and play.
Four GNS teachers have been honoured for their work with Nature School at the Beach Campus. Kindergarten teachers Ms. Janna Sullivan and Ms. Aleesha Bird, along with Junior Kindergarten teachers Ms. Joanne Dunn and Ms. Meera Bandechha were collectively awarded the Outdoor Play Canada 2021 Practice Award.

This was officially announced on October 6 at the Breath of Fresh Air Summit, an outdoor play summit for thought leaders to connect and share their passion for outdoor play.

Over the past few years, the four of them have created an environment that is a combination of outdoor education, environmental education, and play.

According to Ms. Bandechha, Nature School is completely unique. “We have a game plan but sometimes it doesn't come to fruition as we take our lead from the children,” she said. “If the children are into imaginative unstructured play we leave them to it. We help them discover nature by touching trees, plants, grass, rocks, sticks, and water, and then let them explore and see where it takes them.”

They had been nominated at the end of the last school year by Teacher Librarian Ms. Sarah McLeod, and winning the award was hardly the first thing on anyone’s mind.

“To be honest, with the start of a new school year, I had completely forgotten all about it,” said Ms. Sullivan. “And then we got an email last week, completely out of the blue, and it congratulated us and told us that we won.”

“This is a program that we all put a lot of effort into,” said Ms. Bird. “We all appreciate being recognized, and we know that the children really appreciate the program, too, so it’s nice to have that highlighted.”

This is a deserving honour for the group, as they constantly encourage students to learn through direct experience and activities that flow from what nature presents each day, whether on campus, on a local hike or further afield.

“Nature School is the best part of our week,” says Ms. Sullivan “We have the privilege of seeing our learners take action to explore their surroundings — observing, building, discovering, creating, and developing an awareness of environmental stewardship.”

Ms. Dunne added that the advantages of Nature School are substantial. “The benefits are immense. A child's confidence and self-esteem grows at Nature School through hands-on exploration, problem-solving, cooperation, and being encouraged to learn how to assess and take appropriate risks.”

Congratulations Janna, Aleesha, Joanne and Meera! We couldn’t be more proud of what you contribute to our community!
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