Parent Hike and Family Picnic by Becki Kozol (Grandparent)
St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, 2011, marked the first gathering day for the parent community of the Environmental Education Project. The day started at 9 am with 8 parents and one grandparent taking an energetic hike of the Blue Trail in the Malcolm Knapp Research Forest. The Research Forest is one of our project’s proposed learning settings, administered by UBC. During the hike we got to experience this learning forest first-hand, we learned a lot, we asked questions and we made friends.
The discovery hike was planned for 3 hours, but took a bit longer. We set off with the task of thinking of our own questions and imagining what students might do and learn here. As we walked up the wet and spongy trail, some people thought of academic subjects like hydrology; others thought of soil erosion, trail maintenance and construction; others thought of what it might be like just noticing changes over time in plants, trees, moss, and lichen. Parts of the trail were like a stream bed, which made exploration and conversation flow in different directions.
We hiked up to a shelter and lookout where we took time to contemplate, debrief and question what environmental education would be like in the setting of the Research Forest and other places. We talked of deeper and broader learning, of mapping, and of connecting ourselves and students to the “whole” –and thus developing an ecological sense. We shared clouds and wind, sun, and a slight snow storm, which lead us back to a conversation of measuring temperatures and expanding learning outcomes. There were lots of revealing insights.
On the walk back we looked at the same scenery but with a different perspective, thinking of our conversation at the lookout point. The sun filtered through the trees, affording different views than on the way up and suggesting different research possibilities. There was one area where the trees were perfectly in lines, row upon row. There was an area of giant Douglas Firs and evidence of an ancient fire. Comparisons flourished as we continued down the trail.
We finished the hike with a short debriefing at the trailhead. There was a great deal of excitement and a feeling of encouragement at our growing community. We all looked forward to the planned late afternoon picnic.
The day ended with some of the parents and children getting together for a picnic at Alco Park. There were 15 families in all. This gave us a chance to talk, ask questions, socialize with others, play, and eat a picnic dinner. The District of Maple Ridge and Alouette River Management Society are encouraging us to learn in the parks; the children obliged by getting right into discovering the environment where they will be spending some of their days next year.
Overall, the St. Patrick Day activities, a hike and family picnic, were educational, relaxing and community-building. Everyone talked of future activities.