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Weekly Challenge for #EnviroEd # 80 Autumn Edition of #Kindergartenbioblitz Sept 11-15, 2017

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#Kindergartenbioblitz began over 4 years ago with an attempt to “extend the experience” of environmental education at our Peel District School Board’s Outdoor Education Centres. We strive to build a relationship with students and classes that goes well beyond the one day field trips we offer and instead be “available” as environmental resources year round. This allows us to foster and encourage a spirit of natural inquiry.

Very quickly, the ridiculously long hashtag caught on beyond our school board to the point where countries in every hemisphere tend to take part.

If interested, you can check out other blog posts on this website or have a look at this Steller story for a step by step guide on how to participate.

The September version of this event is at a superb time in North America as many school systems are starting up again and this grants both teachers and students early permission to step outside and explore their own yards with the help of naturalists who do not just answer their questions about what they find – but also continue to ask the students more questions about their discoveries.

There are other benefits as well.

  • Some teachers by responding to other classes discoveries end up creating class relationships and even a “pen” or “video” pals scenario with their students.
  • Students are introduced into learning outdoors and how to prepare for it in all weather.
  • Learners are introduced to how others perceive their own backyards that they may take for granted.
  • Educators help students formulate and even write their own questions thereby allowing them to take the lead in this initiative.

There are many PLN’s around the world that encourage outdoor play. #Kinderchat, #EnviroEd #ReggioPLC, #umweltbildung and others. Many of these promote our #kindergartenbioblitz as we lead into it – however both these and your own district hashtags (ie #peel21st, #yycbe, etc) can be used to get other classes involved as well.

Let us know you’ll be participating this month! Send a tweet & either tag myself (@RangerRidley) or use the hashtag to promote to your PLN’s!

Looking forward to exploring this school year with you no matter where you are!


Weekly Challenge for #EnviroEd # 79 #KindergartenBioBlitz turns 4 years old



It’s hard to believe 4 years ago this week we started our #KindergartenBioBlitz initiative in my own local school board. The initial concept was to try to “extend the experience” of our outdoor education centres by compelling our local classes to explore their own backyards over the period of a school week.

By the second day though the power of social media become clear as it has spread beyond my own school board into other provinces. Teachers in Calgary, Alberta and elsewhere began to contribute as well.

It was such a success that we decided that we should try to do it three times each year. Now it runs the first full week of June, the second full week of September and the last week of February every year. Here’s a Steller story for classes how to take part for those wishing to participate. 

Kindergarten classes from every hemisphere now take part and share what they’ve discovered in their own backyards.

The power of collaboration is immense. I recall a few years back during a #KindergartenBioBlitz session sharing a photo of a Striped Skunk that was on my own front lawn early one morning as I left to work. By the time I did the 40 minute drive classes from Australia were responding to that photo excited to see a “Pepe LePew” as they felt they didn’t have anything that “cool” in their school yards. They only had kookaburra and Kangaroos – this of course lead classes in North America to respond that they had never seen these animals before.


#KindergartenBioBlitz is a ridiculously large hashtag with ridiculously large potential for both connecting your class to their local environment and to other classes around the world.

So I challenge you to get your class involved – Join in from June 5-9th, 2017 for our fourth anniversary. Share, respond to others, question other classes and enjoy. For when one takes the time to explore their own community it doesn’t take long to recognize that nothing – in or out of this world is ordinary or plain.

Weekly Challenge for #EnviroEd # 78 “KindergartenBioBlitz, Seasons Changing Edition”



Spring is coming, spring is coming … seriously, no matter what that fortune-telling rodent in your neck of the woods says, it will be coming. But what if you don’t have “groundhogs” or “woodchucks” in your region? How do you tell how the seasons are changing?

Four years ago, in an effort to “extend the experience” of environmental education beyond the day trip we created the #kindergartenbioblitz. Although an insanely large hashtag, it is also an insanely collaborative venture into the realm of natural inquiry for early years teachers.

Although originally meant for teachers within my own Board, it quickly spread to other regions and is now a global phenomenon. Three times a year this week-long inquiry is offered and the February/March version is focussed on the fact that in many parts of the world the seasons are beginning to change. This edition of the ‘blitz will run from Monday, February 27 to Friday, March 3, 2017. 

Each day of the week students are asked a different leading question to help start the investigations of their schoolyard communities. Here is a “story” on how to participate yourself if you have not to this point.


Melting ice, the first migrating species returning, or the maple sap being collected and starting to boil with the taste of syrup in the air. Depending on where you are, this time year means different things to different people.

And that’s one of the most powerful things about the #kindergartenbioblitz. It allows classes to not only participate and speak to naturalists about what they are seeing but more importantly ask each other questions about where they live.

When classes from Australia or Chile explain to those in North America that it is not spring where they live, or when classes in Singapore ask classes in other places what seasons even are like since they do not tend to experience them in the same ways it leads to all sorts of questions between students from around the world.

britannia shack

Locally, we attempt to tie in the Britannia Farm Sugar Bush into the venture to allow students world-wide to experience through video, stories, and daily updates what Ontario’s First Harvest of the year is all about and how it relates to early spring.

So introduce the concept to this year’s class. Set aside the dates (Monday, Feb 27-Friday March 3, 2017). Remember the hashtag #kindergartenbioblitz (some teachers will even begin the day by looking and responding to what other classes have already shared that week). Most important of all though, get ready to investigate, wonder and experience how the seasons change around the world!


#EnviroEd Chat – Jan 2 – Jan 6 2017


Been going squirrelly without your dose of #EnviroEd chat the last couple of weeks?

Many the educator is still on a holiday or winter break but with school starting up again right around the corner no doubt you are already thinking of your first days back in the classroom.

As such here in North America, Paul Kelba and myself have decided to run #EnviroEd chat in a way that is both respectful of family time and yet hopefully thought-provoking and conversation starting.

So this week there will be one question sent out every weekday by either Paul or myself for our outstanding #EnviroEd PLN to discuss and explore.

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Like every #EnviroEd chat over the last number of years be they hosted in North America or Australia this week’s chat will be archived via Storify.

Weekly Challenge for #EnviroEd # 77 Connect with Nature for #MentalHealth


Monday, October 10th was World Mental Health Day. More and more mental health is becoming less stigmatized. I think my own school board has done a tremendous job in recognizing this through continuous campaigns such as Stand Up.

This year’s theme is Connect with Nature for good mental health and well-being. People are being encouraged to explore and find a connection to the outdoors that they have either not found enough time for, have forgotten or perhaps never considered int he first place. Folks are sharing – and the potential for inspiration is real.

The outdoors and nature have always been super for relieving stress and anxiety. Everyone has (or should have!) their favourite spot that they wish they were at when things get though. Perhaps it is the deck, a cottage, a favourite campsite or a boardwalk.

Perhaps you look forward to a walk on your favourite municipal trail at the end of a day after supper or just can’t wait to see the lights of the city from the balcony after twilight over the lake. It’s a shame, but in some cases with busy schedules, family dynamics, etc the only way kids may find their own stress relieving sense of place is when out on a walk in your community with your class.

Explore those local green spaces – bring your students out and witness the metamorphosis  in some.

For a long time our field centres staff have been requested to work with classes for team building initiatives. We have our Bag of Tricks program and low ropes initiatives that focus on team work, fair play, planning for success and time management.

Our high ropes course focusses on self actualization, in other words what you as an individual can achieve more than the rest of the team.

A number of schools in the last few years have been requesting our staff to come into the schools through our community based environmental education or even focus our field trip opportunities on mental health strategies as well. Restorative justice can be easier when staring into the flames of a campfire to debrief. Along the same lines powerful conversations can happen when fishing with students or walking side by side down a path with them.

Imagine if we had the ability or time to take students we would usually send to the “Responsibility Room” for a short walk down to the retention pond or around the block for  a discussion?

So this week, and of course beyond, I challenge everyone to consider their own mental health and that of their charges when we step outside … Share what you can and I’d love your thoughts on this.

Weekly Challenge for #EnviroEd # 76 #ClassTrekking


In Ontario where I live the first week of October each year is Ontario Hiking Week. This year that will be celebrated from October 1 to October 7th.

It’s a wonderful time of year to explore our region. While in the southern part of the province perhaps the most stunning colours have not yet come to their peak – they shall later this month. Trees along roadsides, at the edge of the forests or perhaps trees under a wee bit of stress are likely already changing no matter where your school or community exists if in Canada or the northern US.


It’s also a great time of year to get out and explore as hiking is one of the easier things to do with a class in both an urban or rural setting. It’s a super way to get to know your class (or faculty I say to the administrations out there!)

Bring a book, a snack, a camera for photos to continue the discussion back in the school.

So this week I challenge classes of all ages to get out and do some trekking, share and encourage others to do so as well by sharing on social media using the hashtag #classtrekking.



Weekly Challenge for #EnviroEd # 75 #KindergartenBioBlitz Starting the Year with Outdoor Inquiry Sept 12-16


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For 4 years now we’ve hosted #KindergartenBioBlitz which has become a global collaboration that engages young learners to explore their own school yards for nature.

This directed, yet not directed inquiry allows students to explore, wonder, wander and share their discoveries with not only naturalists like myself and others but also with other classes around the world.

A year or so ago we created a Steller story which is a wonderful tool to help a teacher interested in joining in for the first time.

Without a doubt the highlight for myself is when classes begin asking or answering each other and not waiting for the naturalists (trust me – we’ve just as eager – but often out in the field when the tweet is sent!)

It’s a great way to start the school year – to engage outdoor learning, with other like-minded teachers from around the world.

Hope you join in next week and share with others!

The Art of Being Bored


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I have six kids and this as you can imagine – means I never have time to be bored. Having said that it also means I am constantly hearing the phrase, “I’m bored” from a generation that I’m sad to say has not truly experienced boredom.

Yes. I’m sad to say that my children have not truly experienced boredom and that is in great part the fault of my own generation.

I remember taking road trips across Canada in a station wagon or van. I was the oldest of seven and we usually had one or two Golden Retrievers with us as well. This was in the days before iPods, tablets, portable dvd players or even GameBoys. We had the car radio, perhaps a single Sony Walkman with two or three cassettes and four days of 16 hour drives crossing the continent.

We kept busy by playing magnetic board games like chess or backgammon or by staring out the window searching for out of province licence plates or “punch buggies”.

Now on a recent trip to a Specialist about 40 km from our house I was explaining this to one of my daughters who was complaining of nothing to do on the half hour drive. She was stunned and could not believe we survived that as kids. As I regaled her I was wondering privately how my parents survived it.

I’ve heard tell that the first time the English word Boredom was used was in the Charles Dickens novel “Bleak House” from 1852. Before that the closest word that would be associated with the concept was the French word ennui.

Now looking back with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and advances in medicine perhaps for the first time in existence humans were introduced to the concept of “spare time”.

Looking at the next 12 or so decades from that point it could be argued we have “advanced” more than at almost any other time. Being bored has more than once led to amazing discoveries and even epiphanies. Our lives are certainly better in many ways thanks to people being bored and trying to find something to passionately occupy themselves.

When I was born the world was still changing fast. I recall watching Saturday morning cartoons on a coloured television screen but also knew many were still watching black and white screens. I recall our first Texas Instruments computer and being amazed as my father typed in the BASIC language to have the screen change colours and have the computer robotically say, “OKAY YOU LAZY KIDS GET TO WORK!” over and over.

My phone was attached to a wall and my high school crushes received postmarked letters from me not texts, snap chats or tweets. When bored – I responded not always in the right way but almost always with some consideration.

Boredom is often an asset to individuals – it is a trigger of sorts telling us that there is something we wish to change. It allows us to explore things that make us happy. However, at some point I feel we made a sad turn – Boredom is now something to avoid and by encouraging this we’ve devolved boredom into lethargy.

I am seeing a new generation that has YouTube, 24 hour cartoon networks, and screens on the go. Instead of being creative when bored we reach for the nearest device for instant gratification. Apps and garbage television have become the microwavable meals to feed boredom and I’m not sure it’s nourishment enough. 

We cannot blame it all on technology either. We strive so hard to ensure our children never have to be bored. Dance, sports, tutoring, music, playdates and electronic devices drone by their curious eyes like a circular assembly line  with no end.

It’s not just parents – it’s schools as well. The very word school comes from the Greek word schole  meaning “leisure”. Socrates would speak to his students under fig trees out in the sun and the lessons were much less regimented than those we seem to thrust upon them today.

It’s part of the reason why Maker Spaces and Genius Hour have such a following in school systems now. Students can excel when given their own time to explore, investigate and yes, be bored. Like technology, like the outdoors I am starting to see boredom as the right tool with the right student at the right time.

Along the same lines, for many years in outdoor and environmental education we have promoted the concept of reflective spaces. Students sit in a solitary fashion somewhere by themselves often with just a journal or even nothing at all. When leading such an event, I have in the past been known to put a hold on it once I see students fidgeting or starting to say “I’m bored”

But now I’m wondering if that is always the right path to take … perhaps just perhaps when they are becoming bored we should not always end it because that’s when great things could really be beginning.

Weekly Challenge for #EnviroEd # 74 #KindergartenBioBlitz June Edition


Three years ago this week we dived into the concept of trying to extend the experience in outdoor education. Always one who believes that a one day field trip is powerful – we’ve been building relationships with classes before and after those lessons as well in an attempt to help build upon natural inquiry. With little preparation and just a general idea we opened up invitations within our own Board of Education for what we termed the #KindergartenBioBlitz.

It was a huge success and quickly grew outside our own Board into others as well. We now host it three times a year. One in September, one in February and this one the first full week of June each year. There are numerous posts on this blog about the value, the inspiration and the steps to take if interested in participating.

Each day from Monday, June 6 to Friday, June 10th classes participating are encouraged to explore, investigate, question and share with our outdoor and environmental education staff and each other the world around them.

In recent years, this initiative has truly gone global with schools in Australia, Brazil, Singapore, Italy and others participating as well as Canada and the United States.

Here is a super Steller story on How to Participate in #KindergartenBioBlitz and this week we hope to revive our Pinterest Page on the event as well.

One of the things that makes #KindergartenBioBlitz inspirational in my mind is when the conversations and investigations are not only between classes and outdoor educators but between classes from different regions or even countries as well.

Pass the word, explore the world, give it a whirl …



#EnviroEd Chat Continues To Evolve


For those unaware there is a strong Personal Learning Network available to those interested in environmental and outdoor education. We’ve been working on this PLN for 3 years now offering a weekly twitter chat using the hashtag #EnviroEd every Wednesday night at 9 pm (New York/Toronto time).

During that time we’ve Storifed each and every chat and the topics while varied are always engaging and hopefully – timely.

Typically the chats have been organized each week by myself and co-moderator Paul Kelba of the Calgary Board of Education. Paul has been a truly inspiring part of my professional career path since we came across each other on Twitter about 4 years ago. I have only been lucky enough to meet the man once in person (it seems every time one of us is in the other’s neighbourhood the other is missing in action) but we collaborate  and learn from each other on an on going basis.

While Paul and I tend to moderate there are without a doubt other key members of this PLN many with almost perfect “attendance” in the weekly chats as well. Over the last few years we’ve had dedicated folk from Brazil, Cambodia, Japan, England, Australia, Scotland, the States, Canada and even from outdoor educators on the high seas (when in a wifi friendly port!). Of course, for many of these people, the set time of a weekly chat can be problematic as we attempt to connect from different timezones.

In the last number of months I’ve come to count Steve Body and Chris Vella of Australia as “natural resources” for the #EnviroEd crew as well. These two gentlemen have a passion for environmental education and adapting it to today’s learners’ needs that is enviable. These two fine gentlemen are definitely worth a follow.

They also have two other qualities worth mentioning … the desire for teamwork and the desire to grow and share in their own learning.

So, this past week, the two of them hosted the inaugural Aussie #EnviroEd chat. In one week they increased our PLN substantially and it was such a success that they plan on continuing the chat using the #EnviroEd hashtag every second week.

So – moving forward, #EnviroEd chat is truly becoming more global. Starting in May the chat will be hosted by our Australian cohorts on Wednesday nights at 8 pm (Sydney time) with Paul and I hosting the following week at 9 pm (Toronto time) . We will continue to alternate each week.

We’re always looking for new ideas, new recruits and new connections so please feel free to join us!