April 29th, 2019

As an amateur writer, retired marketer and future elementary school teacher, I have  experienced a lot of soul searching, and have always been inspired by friends like Christy whose light shines the brightest while working on her craft.

I wanted to discover what made me shine the brightest and it came in an unlikely way after being laid off from a meaningful, yet dead-end job in fundraising. The only thing that I knew I loved was writing and trusting that, I became a volunteer with the Writers’ Exchange and started empowering primary students in the downtown eastside of Vancouver to get jazzed on reading and writing. Fast forward two years and I have 2 months and 12 days left of my program and have never felt more at home in the classroom.

Yet, nothing I learned could have prepared me for the awakening I have felt being in the presence of 22 young minds.

My practicum has been spent in a grade 2 classroom in South Nanaimo, suburban but tucked within a beautiful valley. Our classroom is a portable with 3 barred windows facing another portable, little natural light and air flow but is filled with creativity, inquiry and most importantly, laughter! The opportunity to get the kids outside is not obvious but once we start to understand how to teach based on place, it comes naturally (no pun intended!).

As a kid, I took for granted the years spent growing up sandwiched between the forest and ocean. The decades between these students and myself has introduced the digital screen and more troubling, video games that consume these young minds. Their reality is now being played out through a digital realm and further disconnecting themselves from nature and themselves.

For years we have been teaching our students about people and lands far away but when they step into their own backyards they are strangers to their environments. We may never know our neighbours, let alone the ones flying overhead, the ocean dwellers and the forest bathers. Our connection to self comes naturally through the connection to the roots we stand upon. Those roots may run deep or may weave close to the surface, but there is a depth that can be found in each of us that helps us understand where we come from.

It is our responsibility to make sure that each young mind has the opportunity to come alive when they are outside learning. They are our future and how can they be ambassadors for our earth, if they aren’t connected to it?