On May 3, a team of educators from the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, along with science educators from OISE’s Robertson Program, the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study and Natural Curiosity, gathered on Alderville First Nation’s Black Oak Savanna as part of their ongoing collaborative inquiry work in land-based teaching and learning.
Our focus was on how to incorporate the rich history and ecology of Alderville’s Black Oak Savanna – Canada’s easternmost prairie and home to a variety of rare, threatened or endangered birds, mammals, insects, and plants – to inspire land-based pedagogy and inquiry-based learning in schools serving local First Nation communities.
The morning began with a tour of the land led by the knowledgeable and passionate biologist, artist and ecologist Rick Beaver. He shared the history of the people of this land and identified plant species, many of which are rare, threatened or endangered, as well as their traditional uses in medicine and their importance in supporting relationships with other species including birds, insects, and mammals. We were inspired and learned so much from Rick’s exemplary teaching and his passion, expertise, and respect for the land. Also joining the Robertson/JICS/Natural Curiosity team was an educator from Paraguay who was very surprised and delighted when Rick Beaver began speaking to her in Spanish!
In the afternoon, teachers from North Shore and Roseneath Public Schools shared the creative inquiry work they have been doing throughout the year in their classrooms since our last professional development session together. Teachers showed commitment and a true dedication to bringing the principles of inquiry to life through their work with their students.
Then it was planning time! Each group of teachers began to plan inquiry activities to support their upcoming visits to the Savanna with their own classrooms. Rick Beaver reminded the teachers to “follow the children’s lead” while on the land. He urged us to observe what the children were observing, to follow children’s questions, and to support their inquiring minds.