Saturday, 29 August 2015

Outdoor Learning

Throughout my summer, I have been privileged to spend lot of time outside. As I sit listening to the wind in the trees or the waves crashing on the shore, I am reminded of the amazing wonders of our world. Spending time outdoors is extremely important for children, especially in the early years (kindergarten). I have been reading various resources about outdoor learning and following colleagues as they explore what outdoor learning means in our contexts, and the more I read the more I realize how valuable nature is to us and to children. 

"Studies show links between access to nature and ability to sustain concentration, delay gratification and cope with stressors."

This chart from an article about the benefits of nature highlights some of the skills students gain from spending time outdoors:
Click here for the full article
Some Outdoor Learning Resources:

Natural Curiosity 

Wisdom of Nature: Out My Backdoor

A Place of Wonder

York Region Nature Collaborative

With summer coming to a close in a couple weeks, I hope you take the opportunity to get outside and spend some quality time in nature with your child.

Look at the clouds...what shapes or pictures can you find?
Look for bugs and insects. What patterns can you find?
Find wild flowers. How many different colours can you find?
Go pick berries. How many can you pick?
Go for a nature walk, either on a trail or...

in a forest or ...

on a boardwalk!

Explore your shadow at different times in the day.
Paint objects (sticks or rocks) that you find outside.

Look up! Can you find a rainbow when it's sunny?

Write down what you find outside (i.e. bugs, houses, trees, plants, clouds, birds, etc.).

"Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for Nature. Properly cultivaated, these values can mature into ecological literacy and eventually into sustainable patterns of living."
- Zenobia Barlow

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Art Supplies for Africa-- Delivered!

A child is walking down the red dirt road, away from the school, with tears rolling down their cheeks. "Why are you crying?" the lady asks. "I got sent home from school because I don't have a pencil" the child replies. 

This type of story is the norm in many areas of Uganda. School is highly valued and important, but the cost of a pencil causes some to miss out on an education. Then entered, hundreds of Canadian teachers who attended 'Art Supplies for Africa' last year. The donations you made travelled with me, Melissa Sookra and a team of Canadian educators (Jill, Karen, Lori Canham, Elizabeth, Laurie Thomas and my mom, Anne Tompkins) to Uganda. It was such a privilege to deliver the supplies, words cannot begin to describe the experience. You will have no idea of the impact it had on the lives of the children and families there. I hope the photos and video (see below or click here) will give you just the tiniest glimpse into that impact.

Due to the large amount of donations made in March 2014, we were able to bless more than one school.
Donations at the end of our 'Art Supplies for Africa' event
We spent four days at Nakyessa Day and Boarding school, 3 hours outside of Kampala, where we gave each student a pencil case and made various crafts through our days these. We packed the pencil cases one evening in Kampala and counted just over 300 cases, which meant we were only able to give to P1-P7, not the toddlers and kindergartens. When we handed out the cases the next day, we ended up having enough for all students in P1-P7 (including those who were absent) and ALL the toddlers and kindergartens!! It was a miracle. The noise when handing out the pencil cases was overwhelming. The children were screaming, laughing, squealing and cheering while looking through the case, which contained pencils, crayons, markers, erasers and pencil crayons.

Melissa and I at Nakyessa Day and Boarding School with the pencil cases

The Canadian teaching team with one of the classes.

Teaching the primary teachers how to use the various activities (crafts, letter ID games, manipulatives, etc.) we created for them to encourage creativity in their classrooms
The pencil case guarantees education for these children for years. Teacher Jane, a local Ugandan, said in a note to us,

"I learnt many things from you the time we spent together at Nakyessa school, creativity was the major lesson both to the teachers and the kids. And by Friday I had realised that despite what our children in village set up are facing they can become important people in this nation if loved and cared for." 

This is what your donations did. They helped these children realize they can become important people in their nation.

We moved north to Soroti, and visited a school in Ongutoi. We were able to give each of the 700 students a pencil and do a craft with them. We made hearts with stickers as a reminder to them that people in Canada love them and are thinking of them.

We visited a children's church and were able to give those children pencils and do a craft. Some of the children at this church walk up to 7km to get there, where they are provided a meal and community. Many of the children live in the nearby slums and are heads of their house holds. So, giving them a pencil meant it was one less thing for them or their caregiver to worry about purchasing. We were also able to pack a trunk full of paper, crayons, pencils, books, and markers for a teacher for her school just outside Kampala. The donations continued to give as we were able to give a couple bags of pencils to our driver for the week (Patrick) to hand out to children at his church! The gift that just kept giving :)!

Thank you does not seem enough to say to all of you who travelled to our school to see our classrooms and donate to the children of Uganda. 
But it is all I can say, so, THANK YOU on behalf of the beautiful children of Uganda.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Back from Africa

My team and I are back from Uganda!

What a privilege this trip has been. We were able to bring the donations from our evening 'Art Supplies for Africa' and deliver them to a few schools in Uganda.

Once I settle back in and have a chance to go through all the pictures and videos, I will give you a full update on the trip. For now, I will leave you with one of the many moving photos from handing out the school supplies.

Your donation made more of a difference than you will ever know.

Stay tuned for the full story!