Outdoor Education Soars at Hampstead School

Montreal - Monday, December 19, 2016

Principal David Lee is a strong advocate for outdoor education:

Outdoor education offers our students the natural environment as their classroom,” he says.  “Whether students are hiking challenging trails, pitching tents, or meandering their way through a forest with map and compass, outdoor education broadens the students' perspective and awareness of their natural surroundings. At Hampstead School, we value outdoor education as a means to strengthen a child's self-confidence and self-esteem, to promote a love for physical activity and for the outdoors

Outdoor Education at Hampstead began with Physical Education teacher Mike Creamer’s desire to get students active outdoors. He planned some trips, taking different grade levels at the school to Mont St. Hilaire for hiking or to the Pointe Claire Canoe club for a day of paddling. Having seen the positive impact these experiences had on students, Hampstead decided to take the program to the next level. The school applied for the Ministry of Education’s annual École Active Grant, and were awarded an amount of $6,500 to support the development of the Outdoor Education Program. 
According to Mr. Creamer, one of the most rewarding aspects of the program has been seeing how the variety of activities has allowed students to shine in a different light. “It’s been fun to see students in different settings and experiencing new activities. Some of the students who excelled in Archery aren’t the ones who necessarily excel in team sports…having these different types of activities in the Phys. Ed. program has allowed different students to be reached.

The program is set up so that each cycle will go on two outings throughout the school year. Cycle 1 will do a winter activities day on Mount Royal, where they’ll cross-country ski and snowshoe. In June, they will go to the Pointe Claire Canoe club for some introductory-level paddling experiences such as Dragon Boat and Recreation Canoeing. Cycle 2 went to Morgan Arboretum for a day of Orienteering in the fall. Their second outing is a Winter Camping Trip. Cycle 3 went hiking in Mont Tremblant Park earlier in the year, and will also go to the Pointe Claire Canoe Club in June, where they’ll rotate between several stations that provide them the opportunity to try Stand-Up Paddle boarding, kayaking, dragon boat, and canoeing. 

Mr. Creamer uses Physical Education classes to prepare students for the upcoming activities. Students first practiced using a map in the gymnasium, where they were challenged to navigate their way to a series of cones set-up in the gym in a designated order. They then completed a similar activity in the school yard, learning how to orient a map to find various landmarks. This progression allowed them plenty of opportunities to learn and practice map-reading skills before the ultimate challenge of orienteering at Morgan Arboretum.

Mr. Creamer credits a large part of the success of the program so far this year to the staff members stepping up. “To make the program successful all of the school staff had to be active participants,” he said. “They have to lead students in activities while on the trips, as well as support a higher number of Physical Education-lead field trips which meant adjusting some of their own programs. Thanks to their help and support there have been some really memorable and successful trips for students so far.

Principal Lee has enjoyed seeing the impact of outdoor education first-hand at his school:

this program has been a means for students to learn new life skills, to promote the value of environmental conservation, and to enhance the students' overall educational experience.  The outdoor education program at Hampstead is an integral part of our school's continued commitment to experiential education”.

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