PHOTOS: Outdoor Langley classroom program maintains popularity, reaches capacity again

Students enjoy exploring the park during recess and lunch, including climbing trees and jumping in leaves at Ponder Park. (Langley School District/Special to Langley Advance Times)Students enjoy exploring the park during recess and lunch, including climbing trees and jumping in leaves at Ponder Park. (Langley School District/Special to Langley Advance Times)
LEAP Teacher Adam Knowlson instructs students on creating groups of estimates using piles of leaves at Ponder Park. (Langley School District/Special to Langley Advance Times)LEAP Teacher Adam Knowlson instructs students on creating groups of estimates using piles of leaves at Ponder Park. (Langley School District/Special to Langley Advance Times)
LEAP Teacher Marlee St. Pierre works through an interactive language activity with her class at Ponder Park. (Langley School District/Special to Langley Advance Times)LEAP Teacher Marlee St. Pierre works through an interactive language activity with her class at Ponder Park. (Langley School District/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Piling up bright coloured leaves seems like a typical activity for children at this time of year but it’s rare to see it in a math lesson.

For students in the LEAP program (Langley Environmental Awareness Program), which runs out of Fort Langley Elementary, playing with leaves at Ponder Park is a regular part of their learning.

“As part of math they’re learning how to group 10s. They have to estimate what 10 looks like, what 100 looks like, and then what does a 1,000 look like. Collecting piles of leaves and then estimating how many there are,” said Adam Knowlson, LEAP teacher of a Grade 3/4 class who also holds a passion for the outdoors.

“The best part is you get to jump in it after!” he added.

This is Knowlson’s second year teaching in this program, which he said provides students an opportunity to connect with each other, connect to their environment, and with the curriculum in a unique way.

READ MORE: Outdoor classroom brings kids closer to nature with play and learning

“We get to be involved with them in more than a traditional academic sitting space. We see how they get to socialize, and then we get to have a natural connection to whatever is around us,” explained Knowlson.

“The way that the curriculum exists now, lends itself really well to doing lessons that attack competencies using the materials right around us.,” he remarked. “So, socials and science can exist right around, and what’s underneath our feet, and what we can see with our eyes. It creates an awesome wonder and curiosity.”

The program has grown since the first student intake in 2018.

The program is currently full, with 82 students making up four classes running from Kindergarten to Grade 4.

As in previous years, the number of applicants for Kindergarten entry for the 2022-23 school year has exceeded the number of spaces available, requiring the Langley School District to conduct a lottery system.

Colleen Harvie, principal of Fort Langley Elementary, said it’s a high demand program, where students learn outside three days a week in either a Metro Vancouver park, a Township of Langley park, or at Trinity Western University.

“This way they are provided with all the learning opportunities but in a different setting, in their environment, but they still go to school two days a week. They get their music, PE in the gym, and their art with the art teacher,” said Harvie.

“Being in the outdoors you have to be a critical thinker and a problem solver. They hike, they come up against animals, and all different sorts of things in the parks, and they have to learn how to problem solve. It’s a very healthy way to learn physically, emotionally, and academically. It’s an incredible way to learn.”

The program also highlights environmental stewardship and connection to the community.

“This isn’t just our space for the six hours we are here. This is our shared space with our community,” said Knowlson. “The kids get to share what’s okay to put on the ground, how do we carefully interact with this space, or how do we use this trail. That’s one aspect of making sure that it’s here for their kids [in the future],” explained

Registration for Kindergarten entry has closed. Applications for students entering Grades 1-4 begin in January. For information about the program, visit the webpage here or contact Fort Langley Elementary.


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EducationEnvironmentLangleyLangley School District