Wandering through the woods, collecting natural items to develop an outdoor art project or using the sounds around you to do some creative writing…what could be more idyllic for learning than that?
At St. John’s Academy (SJA), we don’t confine our learning strictly to the four walls of a classroom. Rather, we take the opportunity to see the wooded trails, waterfront, and our outdoor spaces alive with students learning and designing in all curricular areas. There are so many surprising benefits to teaching outside of a classroom.
If you were to come and observe our campus, you might see enthusiastic student teams navigating with maps, compasses or GPS units in the forested areas of our campus. Gardening, or doing outdoor art or design projects are also high up on our list. This makes learning so much more interactive and interesting to our students, and that’s a priority for us!
Our Outdoor Education Program (OE) gives students regular opportunities to deepen their relationship and knowledge of the natural world, ecological processes, and careers rooted in sustainability. Classes will be structured around hands-on activities and experiences that apply skills and knowledge for safe, environmentally responsible outdoor activities. The outdoors will help students become well-balanced individuals and raise their awareness of taking actions to make a positive impact on the world around them. Did you know that in a traditional school system, students spend more time indoors than inmates do?! That’s not something we want to replicate at SJA.
Many Co-curricular opportunities are given to students to explore the Cowichan Valley and amazing locations stretching out across Vancouver Island. Through our Co-Curricular programs and off-campus trips, we allow students to further explore unique science, environmental stewardship, outdoor pursuit, and service-learning opportunities.
Every student will take part in OE in various capacities. Trips will range in length from part of a day to multiple days in the backcountry. Our staff — who already know the students well — will supervise the preparation, go on the adventures, and transfer learning from OE to academics and everyday life. This context gives students and teachers an unexpected way to get to know one another as part of the SJA “family.” Creating this sense of belonging will hopefully turn into lifelong friendships. We believe that shared experiences around a common purpose are a big part of this.
OE, we believe, is essential to our mission of developing well-rounded students who demonstrate excellence in scholarship, leadership, and character. It will challenge students to always do their best. Outdoor learning experiences at SJA will teach life skills as part of the technical skills of the outdoors.
Spending time outdoors as students mature helps them become outdoor enthusiasts for life. They learn to love and nurture the overall wellness that nature brings while being encouraged to be open to new adventures and challenges.