Britannia Farm Field Centre – Using 21st Century Tools to Engage Students in the Sugar Bush
As most readers are aware, one of my goals as an outdoor educator is to take the one day field trip and help the classroom teacher make it into a month, of a year long study.
This year, for the Britannia Sugar Bush program, a half day maple syrup experience particularly designed for the early years, we’ve taken that to what we hope will be new heights.
Each year classes come for a half day to this urban sugar bush experience in the heart of Mississauga. Students get to experience a modern day sugar shack and also a pioneer area where students get to see and “live” a March Break from about 170 years ago when they all would have been working rather than having a week off school.
This year though in an effort to create more engaging programming and to help students understand that the making of maple syrup is not a day but a season we’ve added a few other things.
First, classes participating will be encouraged to ask questions and keep track via Twitter of the day to day operations in the sugar bush by using the hashtag #BritanniaFarm. Students will be able to ask questions or remark on the activities much as they do during the #KindergartenBioBlitz. Students will see tweets and even Vines showing what is happening in the sugar bush.
Second, each teacher that has booked was given access to a Symbaloo page on the Sugar Bush experience with math and language arts lesson plans as well as videos, current events, recipes for syrup and more.
Third, students will be able to Skype or Facetime with Field Centre Instructors prior to their visit to ask questions and help prepare them. As part of these prescheduled “visits”, we will even discuss the weather for the day they are planning on coming and how to prepare for that visit.
The evaluation after the visit will be done via SurveyMonkey as well.
Now nothing takes a students breath away like tasting warm maple syrup. Little can compare to the smell of the campfire. This first and foremost is our goal in outdoor and environmental education. We recognize not all teachers will make use of all the tools being offered, and classes need to be aware we will be teaching during the day as well (so questions are likely to be answered first thing in the morning or towards the end of the day when visiting students are on the bus back to their school). But by utilizing these tools we can keep the students engaged and excited by the entire season rather than just for a couple of hours when they visit.
Who says outdoor education and 21st Century Learning do not go hand in hand?