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Small school. Big world. EKOLogy outdoor learning program is growing, spots available for 2024-25

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The district’s EKOLogy Program of Choice at East Kensington Elementary has room to grow and is welcoming new students to join in the upcoming 2024-25 school year!

EKOLogy, which stands for East Kensington Outdoor Learning, provides kindergarten to Grade 7 students with opportunities to experience classes in nature, learning about environmental stewardship and encouraging curiosity and inquisitiveness while integrating the B.C. curriculum. With just over 100 students, East Kensington is also the district’s second smallest school, and to principal Steve Hardy and his staff, that’s a good thing.

“I like to say, ‘Small school. Big world.’ Everyone knows your name at East Kensington,” said Hardy, noting its smaller size allows staff to provide more individualized support for students. “We’re able to be responsive to both their academic needs and their social and emotional needs. And the ability to get outside can help them regulate and be healthier as a result.”

The small school size also makes it easier for students to take field trips and walks to nearby parks to learn in other environmental settings. Outdoor learning offers a number of benefits for students, including:

  • unique experiences that engage children’s innate sense of wonder and gratitude in the beauty, diversity and complexity of the world;
  • opportunities for students to experience risk, an integral part of learning and healthy development; and
  • chances to foster students’ core competencies such as creativity, critical thinking, effective communication and personal, social and environmental awareness.

“Learning in the outdoors gives the curriculum a richer breadth,” said Hardy. “The most effective place to learn about the science behind the environment is outside in the environment. Sometimes we’ll do art or silent reading outside if the weather is nice. It actually adds to students’ education by being outside of the classroom and I feel it’s a more beautiful way to learn.”

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The EKOLogy program also offers music and athletic opportunities such as track and cross-country, and allows teachers to facilitate inquiry-based, play-based and place-based learning with students. The program aligns with the , as outlined by the .

Hardy noted outdoor learning isn’t always rain or shine: if the weather isn’t cooperating, students will stay inside to learn. But if the sun comes out unexpectedly, staff are able to pivot to the outdoors, adding that students often express how much they enjoy the chance to learn, play and explore outside.

“They love the outside, they can be out for two or three hours of the day in the garden, doing P.E., playing educational games,” he said. “We cover the same curriculum as other schools and have found that being outside helps students learn.

“We believe that nature is an important teacher. Studying nature in nature just makes sense.”

There are limited spaces available for the EKOLogy program and registration is now open! For more information or to register, contact the school at 604-541-1257 or email eastkensington@surreyschools.ca 

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