On September 22, Riverside Secondary School students and teachers were invited to enjoy the completed new outdoor learning space at the Northwest side of the school. The main goal in making this space was to have a new flexible space outdoors so that Riverside students and staff can enjoy using it to help learn and build connections with one another.
Setting up the new space was a process with many steps and preparations to think about. First, the building contractors spaced out the rocks and discussed what to do with the slope, leveling and preparing it for the rocks. Lastly, they gathered the rocks and spaced them where they wanted them to be, and it was completed.
The learning space was brought about because of the inspiration of former SD43 educator, Maxine Wilson, who supported the cost of the work with a grant. Vice principals, Dave Jones and Sharon McKay were also a big part in the collaboration of the idea, organizing the process, and sharing the vision of the space with the school during a STREAM activity.
Making this outdoor learning space was not only important and impactful for students and the staff of Riverside to have, but the space also incorporates and acknowledges the importance of the First People’s Principles of Learning. One of the principles is that learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors. This means that indigenous people find ways to value key skills in their learning in and from the environment. Rocks are a part of many First People’s culture and learning. English teacher Erin Graham commented on the significance of rocks. “The Anishinaabe teachings about Grandfather Rocks reveal that, “’The stone carries the voices of our Ancestors. Rocks have been witness to the passage of time and all that has occurred in that time. Those histories are held within the rock and tell of our relationship with the land, water and the beings with whom we share space. The teachings held within the rock help us to build that strong foundation needed to live life in a good way.’” (Heritage Matters)
McKay feels very passionate about the First Peoples’ connection. “Indigenous learning is a topic that is very important in the curriculum, and so we had conversations with other district administrators and found out that they were putting the rock circles in at various schools, and so I thought that’s the main reason why I thought it was so important for Riverside to have one,” said McKay.
Having this learning space is also very suitable for incorporating the First People’s principles of Learning because of the significance of the circle. “The circle is a sacred symbol of the interdependence of all forms of life; the circle is a key symbol in First Peoples’ spirituality, family structure, gatherings of people, meetings, songs and dances.” (The Circle of Healing)
Riverside French teacher, Mme Zaineb Aziz feels the space is welcoming because “circle sharing outside, which is part of the first people’s tradition, is something that I like to do with my class. As a French teacher, I like to do a lot of oral language discussion, and the circle invites sharing.” She also added that by having her students learning outside and connecting with nature is very beneficial for their health, both physically and mentally.
Grade 11 Riverside student, Fionah Sacro feels the space helps her in many ways too. “Being able to use it as an escape from learning in a classroom and to ultimately calm students down from the stress of being at school all day is a welcome break.” Overall, the outdoor learning space has a lot of positive benefits to it by bringing Riverside secondary school together and building upon new perspectives and connecting in different ways.