It’s Winter In Canada … What Do You Do?

There’s no doubt about it: this week was a cold one. Most mornings, the temperature was -15 or colder without the windchill, and hovering around -20 with the windchill. Brrr … This is right around the temperature where our Board makes it an indoor recess, and since we always start our mornings outside, we often had to wait until the last-minute to figure out if we could go out or if we had to stay in. Thankfully we made it outside on all days but one, and that was definitely a more challenging day.

The more experienced I become as an educator and the more I learn from my amazing teaching partner, Paula, the more that I realize just how valuable outdoor time is for all of us. We’re not talking recess here. On most days, we spend over an hour, and closer to 1 1/2 hours, outside in the morning. We go between our outdoor classroom space and our forest area, and this time is often the highlight of my day. This is completely free time! We don’t plan activities or structure the learning in these spaces: we watch students, we respond to them, and we help draw the links between their choices and program expectations. I’ve blogged numerous times about our “forest time”, and I cannot speak strongly enough about the value in this learning space. Our four-month long Letter Inquiry started outside, and continues outside even on the coldest of days. 

I share all of this because during our Staff Meeting this week, I had an aha moment thanks to the other Kindergarten teacher, Janet. In our P.L.C.s (Professional Learning Communities), we were discussing successes in our classroom. The topic of outdoor learning came up. We spoke about how earlier in the week, many children were really cold outside, and we had to come in a lot earlier than anticipated. During our morning meeting time, Paula spoke to the class about this, and had children reflect on how they felt outside and what they could do to feel warmer.

It was great to hear students reflections and know that even our youngest of learners knew what to do to feel more comfortable outside. During our staff meeting conversation on this topic, Janet drew a parallel between the resilience that students show outside and the resilience that we see in the classroom. There’s something to be said for problem solving, perseverance, and the willingness to go back at something, even when it’s challenging, uncomfortable, or not what we initially expected. Cold weather can be like this! But when we get kids to reflect on what they’re feeling and solve some of their own problems — instead of rescuing them — the long-term impact is big. 

Yesterday was another cold day, but children didn’t complain about the weather, dressed well for it, and we stayed outside a bit longer than the day before. When we came in, I had the students reflect on changes they made based on their conversation with Paula on Thursday. 

This process was a good reminder for me that even on cold, wet, snowy, or rainy days, there’s value in being outside, and if we get students involved in the process of solving problems around comfort and warmth, they will enjoy this learning time outside even more. Yesterday, my teaching partner, Paula, was off unexpectedly and there was no supply. This made for a harder day for me, but I think that the calming nature of this outside time, started our day off right. Without getting out first, I wonder if we would have ended up with the positive day that we did

As a parent reminded us earlier this week, “It’s winter in Canada.” Let’s embrace it! I think about how much I’ve learned through “uncomfortable times,” and how “uncomfortable” was even my One Word Goal a couple of years agoCould a little discomfort — even from a cold day — lead to just as much learning for kids as a little discomfort does for adults? How do you respond to the weather, and what impact might this have for children? On this snow-covered Saturday, I hope for winter weather that always stays at least slightly above that -15 mark … as well as the ability to always see the lines in the parking lot! 🙂 Is that too much to ask?!


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