The Western Québec School Board extends their congratulations to Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary School (PETES) teachers Heather Riosa and Teah Sarrazin. Recently, they won the prestigious Canada-wide Canadian Museum of Nature Inspiration Award in the category of Large Not-for-profit Organizations!
The school’s nature immersion-kindergarten program runs for the full day and all year round, except when temperatures dip below -20ºC. The students do get several indoor breaks to eat lunch and to use the bathroom but are otherwise outside for the day. This structure of learning is unique in the school board.
The program was designed by Ms. Riosa and Madame Sarrazin not long before the pandemic hit. The many benefits of the outdoor immersion-kindergarten program became strikingly apparent between lockdowns. Physically, the students learn how to move in nature and how to use nature in play and learning. Furthermore, it teaches students to respect living things and their habitats.
Socially and emotionally, the program gives the students room to process their emotions and cultivate stronger attachments. Cognitively, they learn about cause and effect through experimentation, develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as learn and practice new vocabulary. Mathematics is also incorporated into their outdoor learning in creative and active ways that encourage student participation and increased focus.
The popularity of this program continues to grow. Some parents have indicated they had moved into the PETES catchment precisely to be eligible for this program. The program illustrates the immense value of taking learning outdoors, and the WQSB is proud to have this unique class structure available for students living in an urban area.
Thank you to Principal David McFall, as well as to Heather Riosa and Teah Sarrazin for providing the information and some of the photos for this article.