Nanaimo Ladysmith School District is providing more training opportunities this spring for teachers to receive outdoor education-related certifications.

An action in response to the board goal to be a leader in environmental stewardship and sustainability, NLPS is working toward having at least one teacher in each elementary school who has completed the Outdoor Council of Canada (OCC) hiking field leader course. 

“One of the first things that came to light when the goal was circulating through the district

was the idea of how prepared staff felt in having students participate in outdoor activities,” assistant superintendent Don Balcombe said during a presentation to the education committee on Jan. 4.

Enhancing training among teachers would minimize how much the district would need to contract outside the system for outdoor educational opportunities, Balcombe added.

Teachers with existing training in outdoor education have been working with district staff to develop a plan to have more teachers with safety training and certification. Since the 2021-22 school year, four teachers received instructor certification so they could certify additional teachers in the OCC field leader level one course, one teacher was certified in ocean and marine training, 11 teachers completed either 40-hour wilderness first aid or 20-hour remote first aid, 31 teachers and one principal completed a 16-hour OCC hiking field leader course and two teachers completed lake water advanced instructor certification. This spring 50 teachers will be taking some form of training.

Currently, no teachers at Gabriola Elementary have the training, according to the district.

The district is also working on connecting outdoor education opportunities to Truth and Reconciliation and developing an Indigenous-focused West Coast Wilderness Board Authority/Authorized course for grades 10-12, according to a staff report.

In response to a trustee question on what teachers need to successfully run outdoor education opportunities, Terri Zolob, a grades 1 and 2 teacher at Frank J Ney who currently incorporates outdoor education into her classes, said adequate staffing is key. 

“In primary we can’t do it without an extra person,” Zolob said. “When we take 20-plus students [outside] there’s no other way we can do it without other adult bodies out there with us.”

That additional support would help teachers feel prepared to lead outdoor education. “It’s amazing how much comfortable you are to take the risk and take them outside,” Zolob said.

By Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jan 28, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Gabriola Sounder   Gabriola, British Columbia

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