Take Me Outside connects classrooms with the great outdoors
Colin Harris thinks everyone, especially students, should spend more time outdoors. Harris is the founder and executive director of Take Me Outside (TMO), an organization focused on raising awareness on the importance of outdoor learning and connecting kids with nature.
In 2011, he went as far as launching the organization by running 7600 km across Canada and visiting 80 schools along the way.
Whether taking online classes, consuming our favourite media, or meeting via Zoom, the past couple of years have forced most of us to spend far more time on our devices than we used to. With constantly shifting health restrictions, students have been impacted particularly hard as schools moved between in-person and online learning.
The rapid increase of screen time makes building a closer relationship with nature essential. Harris says the main goal of TMO is to “extend the learning environment beyond the desk and four walls and to use the great outdoors as part of the regular teaching practice.”
“Engaging students in learning outside has numerous benefits and teachers often comment on those, whether it’s improved behaviour, increased confidence, or better problem-solving skills. We’ve had many teachers email to indicate their students respond with “Best day ever!” after a morning or afternoon spent outside,” says Harris.
A recent $50,000 from the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation will support TMO as it builds capacity for its various programming and will promote a positive outdoor learning message using local programs as a blueprint. While national in scope, TMO has strong roots in Banff with connections to the local school community and teaching network. TMO believes the Bow Valley offers some of the most innovative integrated outdoor programs in Canada.
“We are happy to support the thoughtful work being done to educate, inform, and support initiatives that keep kids learning and playing outside. The work that Colin and TMO is doing to encourage teachers to take easy steps towards incorporating outdoor learning into their daily practices benefits students nationally. Locally, we have fantastic home grown programs such as the Nakoda Elementary School Wild program, the Canadian Rockies Outdoor Learning Centre, and Banff’s Nature Explorers which can be used to promote as templates to other regions, and this work helps establish the Canadian Rockies as an outdoor learning industry leader” said Cathy Geisler, Executive Director.
“The Pauw Foundation’s funding helps support the ongoing work we do around outdoor learning, specifically we will make a series of videos throughout this year that in different ways help inspire time outside. We’re excited about filming a couple of teachers and their students at Nakoda Elementary School and a new outdoor education program they’re starting. We’re hoping this can inspire and motivate other educators in pursuing something similar,” said Harris.
As schools and society slowly gets back to normal, Harris is excited is excited to continue their work and watch TMO evolve in the Bow Valley.
“We need students—our future leaders—to have a strong relationship with the outdoors. If we can help strengthen that relationship and find real value in their time outside, the more likely it is that they will care more deeply for the environment” said Harris.
“I think throughout the last two years of the pandemic, educators have seen the numerous benefits of students learning outside and that’s important in the Bow Valley. While we are privileged to live in this community, we also have an opportunity and arguably a responsibility to model some of these locally developed ways for educating students.”
Learn more about how the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation continues to support a more active, vibrant, and happy community.
Learn more about Take Me Outside