Renowned educator and author David Sobel speaks about the philosophy of “place-based” education and encourages us to look for inspiration and opportunities for learning directly within our immediate community, not just from books or through classroom instruction.
While exploring the woods behind Prince of Wales, the children participating in Compass ELC Summer Camp rediscovered the wild berry patches we had explored the previous year. We remembered the wild black raspberries were delicious and fun to pick. When we asked the children what we could make with the berries, they responded enthusiastically, “Juice…tarts…pies…muffins…pancakes…jam!”
Inspired by the children’s interest in berry picking and baking, we spent the next morning picking berries so we could make fresh, homemade tarts that afternoon.
As a group, we created a cooking show where the children became participants and took turns adding the ingredients. Carefully reading the recipe, the children gathered the ingredients, stirred, measured and poured. We then patiently waited for our tarts to bake. Finally it was time to taste these succulent treats. The children and educators devoured the tarts and pleaded for seconds.
We are all aware of the benefits of cooking and baking together. By measuring ingredients, the children are exploring math concepts; by reading and following the recipe, they are developing and improving their literacy skills. Yet this experience offered children so much more. It provided an opportunity for them to connect with their immediate surroundings and with nature.
Having the opportunity to explore their community, and the paths and trails within it, has led to the discovery of wild raspberry bushes. Some of the children have never had the opportunity to experience where food comes from beyond a grocery store. Harvesting the berries themselves led to a curiosity that enticed the children to eat the raspberries. Research supports the belief that children are more likely to taste and come to appreciate the flavours of foods when they have planted or harvested or prepared it themselves, and are less likely to develop food aversions. This was certainly the case with this harvest! After picking the berries, the children were eager to make something to eat and share as a group.
We know children engage more in experiences that are child-initiated. At Compass ELC Prince of Wales we continually offer “place-based” educational opportunities for children to get to know their local neighbourhoods, as well as the greater City of Peterborough and all it has to offer.
Our frequent trips to Jackson’s Creek offer the children an opportunity to catch crayfish and frogs. This leads to wonderings about habitats and life-cycles. Excursions to the Downtown Farmers’ Market offer children the opportunity get to know local merchants and farmers while fostering an appreciation for the hard work that goes into producing food for sale. The children look forward to our trips to the Market and have come to understand the benefits of utilizing fresh, local produce and how it supports those in our community. Geocaching allows us to explore unchartered territories and terrains. Searching for caches led us past the homes of fellow campers and ignited deeper conversations among the children, allowing them to learn more about one another.
Together we accomplished so much from simply exploring our school’s surroundings. Discovering delicious treasures in our own back yard led to one of the most memorable experiences at camp this summer. Once again, this substantiates the importance of “place-based” education and all it has to offer children, even within the hustle and bustle of a busy city.
Stephanie Weare OCT, Educator, Compass ELC School Age Program – Prince of Wales Public School, Peterborough
Kerri Riel RECE, Pedagogical Team Leader for Compass ELC School Age Programs in the City & County of Peterborough
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