Raft River Elementary School's Excitement about their New Outdoor Learning Space

Posted On Friday May 26, 2023

Carmella Mathieu, Principal, Raft River Elementary School

Raft River Elementary staff, students, parents and community members have been working diligently to plan and design a new outdoor learning space. As this space is almost ready to use, everyone is filled with a blend of excitement, gratitude, and pride in recognizing the incredible community effort and donations that have gone into designing, planning, and now breaking ground to build this amazing outdoor place of learning on Secwepemc Territory.

In the 2022-2027 District Strategic Plan, the District mission is to provide learning opportunities and environments that inspire students to thrive.

Trustee Shelley Sim shared, “This outdoor learning space is an environment that will enlarge the learning experiences and opportunities in the North Thompson for these students and their families. The vision and the fundraising efforts have been inspirational, and the community will benefit thanks to the committed efforts of many, and the generosity of local support.”

Early on in the project, students at Raft River were brought in to design a school wide outdoor learning space. The space is to provide learning opportunities for all students at Raft River. The design of the building has been done in such a way that the learning will take place in a natural way and is more than the building itself, but includes learning in the surroundings that will take place during both structured and unstructured lessons.

The vision is that students will naturally use this space for imaginative play, natural learning from the surrounding environment which is being built into the space. The open air classroom and amphitheater will be surrounded by learning stations such as a pollinator garden, wetlands area and a learning forest. Native plants and a traditional Medicine garden will also become a part of the landscape. During the day it will be used for Raft River students and teachers and it will be accessible to community groups after school hours.

Ms. Liz Shook, teacher, has been dedicated and passionate as well as the driving force behind the outdoor classroom design and plans for construction. She and a team of dedicated individuals, with the support of the community, and many donors have raised $202,000 to develop this learning space.

Liz shared “The students will have the opportunity to connect with nature, experience hands-on learning, and lessons that are place based. Students will have opportunities to use the space to connect with community experts and members and engage in learning differently. The outdoor classroom will provide a launching pad for access to the Clearwater area and the learning it holds, from Raft River to the Park.

I was able to witness first hand the benefits of outdoor education meeting the diverse needs of students. I have seen increased student motivation and a sense of accomplishment. Outdoor learning opportunities meet the needs of all students by offering different freedoms and flexibility. Learning outdoors provides the opportunity for movement and supports student regulation.” 

“As Raft River Principal, I am grateful to the Facilities and Grounds department staff who have been an invaluable and integral part of the process as well and will continue to be central to making this dream come to fruition.

I have come into this project part way through. The work that has gone into this project has been tremendous. To hear the stories of what has gone into making this happen, but also the stories of passion and excitement of what is to come, speak to this project being a true community effort. Thank you to all involved. I look forward to hearing of the learning taking place and the stories of the students once the space is complete.” 

The school community will come together to celebrate this unveiling this fall of what has been a labour of love.

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