Either way, we should accept it and just get outside. Today’s ever-changing weather presents a challenge for preparing oneself and others to enjoy the winter months. As an outdoor educator for the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority (GRCA), I have caught myself one too many times putting my rubber boots away in December, only to have to pull them back out for an unexpected rainfall the next week. I have always loved spending time outside, and fortunately, I get to spend my days teaching students outdoors throughout the four seasons. I will admit that a rainy, cold, and windy day in November is not my favourite weather to teach in; however, there is always something to say for embracing the weather that most other people would hide from.
A benefit of going outside in unfavourable conditions is that it can remind us how much can be learned when we expose ourselves to different environments. We might naturally seek dense tree cover in order to provide a break from the wind, and thereby come to appreciate the many benefits that these trees provide in our community. We might also find that if we let curiosity guide learning, then the rain may not be as distracting. Alternatively, we may need to initially focus and learn activities indoors, and then run around and play in the mud in order to balance comfort with learning . . . and the learning will likely become something more memorable because of those unfavourable conditions.
At the Ganaraska Forest Centre, our classrooms include the 11,000 acre Ganaraska Forest as well as the many outbuildings on site. Teaching a group of students on those dreary days can become a balancing act between learning new content and maintaining physical comfort. Of course, some discomfort is okay, but eventually, cold, wet participants will likely be distracted and discouraged from learning any tangible content. Facilitating a balanced program where students can learn and develop skills indoors and outdoors, often increases their confidence and excitement for when it is time to head out into the pouring rain, sleet or snow. Ultimately, learning can still happen outside in any weather conditions. We all may just need a reminder to take an extra glance at the weather report in order to prepare ourselves or to adapt our plans to make it a reality.
As we look ahead to this unpredictable winter, I, and my fellow GRCA outdoor educators, are preparing for Nature Nuts March Break Camp. The programming intends to ignite curiosity and imagination in the participants’ minds. In light of recent weather patterns, we are planning for both winter and spring conditions this year, so that we are ready to embrace whatever weather is thrown at us. Students will become happy, healthy, and curious learners as we adjust the blend of indoor and outdoor learning, playing, and exploring to suit the daily conditions.
If you or someone you know is looking to give a child a week filled with play, creative exploration and adventure, consider the GRCA’s Nature Nuts March Break Camp. Registration is open. Visit www.grca.on.ca and www.ganaraskaforestcentre.ca and look for the squirrel, or call 905.885.8173 to learn more.
Written by – Megan Hennessy, GRCA Outdoor Education Teacher