Environmental School in Maple Ridge

M. Sather: A new school is opening up in the district of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, one without walls, textbooks or desks. One without walls, textbooks or desks — at least not in the way we usually think of them. Instead, the walls will sometimes be the tent of a donated yurt; the textbooks, the leaves of the trees; and the desks will be the grass, rocks and fields.

Nature is the classroom, and the community itself becomes the school. A school is not a building. A school is a place of learning. Imagine what happens when you get rid of the walls, and children are outside in contact with their subjects all the time.

School district 42 is opening its first-ever environmental school, an idea that grew from imagining that learning can happen outside the box, literally. It will be based on the principles of place and community, nature, ecology and sustainability, inquiry and possibility, interdependence and flourishing, imagination and integration.

Sixty children from kindergarten to grade 7 will participate in this unique opportunity. Three teachers will go through the regular curriculum in a way that is consistently interwoven with the outdoor setting. There will be remarkable fluidity between the grades. Children will be able to help others of different ages while being challenged at their individual learning level.

Clayton Maitland is the vice-principal and coordinator of this project. Since August 2008 his passionate involvement has linked the cooperation of the municipalities, parks and rec, First Nations and environmental groups.

A $1 million grant over five years from SFU, in addition to regular funding from the school district, has given this brainchild its legs, which will begin walking this September. I am proud that Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows is the location of this school and believe that our fabulous parks and environment are the perfect classroom for these lucky, adventurous students.

Thank you to Mr. Maitland, the parents, the school board and community groups such as KEEPS, ARMS and the CEED Centre for believing in the power of our greatest teacher, planet Earth.