The Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO) announced an exciting new partnership on Friday that will encourage and support outdoor learning for their students. The partnership is with the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada (CNAC), a national organization whose mandate is to connect children and youth with nature through policy, research and practice. By joining forces with the CEPEO, CNAC is now able to offer their Forest School program in French. Forest School Canada is CNAC’s flagship educational project which teaches educators, organizations and other interested parties how to facilitate play and learning outside. “The vision of the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada is for ALL children in Canada to be playing and learning in forests, parks, meadows and mud puddles,” says CNAC Manager of National Programs, Petra Eperjesi. “Today, thanks to our partnership with CEPEO, we are one step closer to realizing that vision.”
The CEPEO is the first French school board to partner with the CNAC to offer this vocational training to their teachers and encourage outdoor learning at this level for its students. CEPEO Superintendent of Schools, Amine Aidouni, says the school board believes the forest can be an important part of the learning experience. “All the biology and ecology curriculum can be taught in the forest,” he says. “This new partnership will be a resource for all of our teachers.”
The Grade 4 class from École publique Rivière Rideau was on hand to celebrate the official start of the partnership in the Maple Grove on the Kemptville Campus on Friday. It is clear that they are as excited about the program as their educators. They especially appreciate the fact that their outdoor learning is student-led, with teachers taking cues from the students about what they do in their forest classroom.
“I love getting to build and be outside and see all the pretty colours of Fall,” says Violet, one of the Grade 4 students. “We make swings and hammocks, and put people in piles of leaves,” adds Maggie, one of the other students.
Twenty-two educators began their five-day Forest School training in French, facilitated by CNAC, over the weekend. Rivière Rideau Principal, Josée Bédard, says this program gives teachers at their school the foundation for what they are already doing in encouraging outdoor learning. One of their teachers, Julie McLean, was already a Forest School Canada facilitator, and has been taking all the classes at Rivière Rideau to learn and play in the Maple Grove every week since the school opened. Petra says Julie was an instrumental part of in getting the Forest School program offered in French. “It’s wonderful,” Julie says. “It’s a dream come true.”