Disclaimer to our out of province and international readers:  Our curriculum here in BC has been undergoing a massive change throughout the last few years.  While utilizing the new curriculum is not mandatory yet, many teachers here in BC are starting to implement various aspects of it into their teaching.

Back in September, when I was still on maternity leave, I knew I’d be teaching grade 8 science again this year so I went to a Pro D session offering ideas on how to integrate some new curriculum concepts and competencies into science lessons.  I thought, “Great! Perfect! I already worked so hard at making all my grade 8 science stuff last year, so I’ll just reuse it all”.  I thought I’d be able to add in some new curriculum based ideas and be done with it.  It’s now February 2016 and guess how much of that stuff I’ve reused?

Precisely NONE of it.  Absolutely nothing. Nichts.

But this is not a bad thing, you guys.  I know it sounds like a lot of wasted effort and time, but it’s not.  Trust me.  One day I will use those resources I created again, but this year just isn’t the right timing.  This year, instead of reusing my old stuff, I’ve discovered something even more resourceful and brilliant…tapping in to my local community of experts. More specifically, I replied to an email from Green Team BC back in September and together with the coordinators, Amanda and Jenny, whipped up a hands on, outdoors science/ecology education program for my class (and a few others classes in our school joined in as well!)

My grade 8 students have been working in our direct community at a park up the road from our school.  Once a month we work with shovels, clippers, gloves and tarps in the park to remove invasive ivy and plant native species in the designated garden area.  So far we have completed two “field study” sessions and we have two more scheduled before spring break in March.

Jenny, our community leader, visits our class the morning of our field study days and does a short lecture with the students.  Recently Jenny shared with us some of the work she’s been doing with the the native plant species directly in our community and that sparked a whole conversation on seeking the indigenous names for the various native plants in the garden.

What I love most about this project is how it lends my students the opportunity to do some intense place based learning.  The park we are working in is an area that many of my students access every single day.  Since we engaged in our first field session in November, my class is starting to see the park in a new way; the students are leaving a legacy in the place they play and learn.

I encourage all educators who may be struggling with the new curriculum to open your minds to creative opportunities and connections your direct school community might have available.  I am proud to say we aren’t even touching the resources I worked so hard to create two years ago…this work we are doing is much more deep and connected to our space and place.

I am really proud of how professionally my students handled their 15 minutes of fame! Read more about what my grade 8s have been up to in science this year HERE.

Karley