2009 SOEEA Eco-Tour

Ecotours are an highlight of the Saskatchewan Outdoor & Environmental Education Association (SOEEA), as they offer opportunities for SOEEA members to explore specific environments within Saskatchewan.  On July 31, a group of SOEEA members ventured to the Boreal Forest Learning Centre (BFLC) at Ness Creek on the west side of Prince Albert National Park for SOEEA’s 15th annual Eco-Tour.  This trip into Saskatchewan’s boreal forest to proved to be an enlightening experience for all involved.  We walked, rode and sat with our guides as they lead us through trails and assisted in plant identification, spoke of developing learning opportunities, sang songs, played instruments, and told stories.  Our hosts were gracious in sharing their knowledge and relating their feelings about the relationship that connected them to this place.

Throughout the weekend we were told much about the forest and it’s eco-system. During the first formal presentation from John Murray, we were introduced to many of the interactions occurring among the plants and animals within the forest. We were taught that if we look closely in a forest, we can see things that are truly spectacular.  A theme emerged, one of responsible forest practices.  The forest gives so much in terms of food and wealth, but we have to recognize our role in giving back to the forest in order for the relationship between humans and this wonderful ecosystem to continue.

One of our guides Billyak, of Ecuadorian heritage, provided us with spiritual leadership throughout our visit.  Together, we visited and paid our respects the Grandfather Tree, said to be a tree of extreme importance and a place at which one should stop to bring nature into their being.  Billyak, told a few stories throughout the weekend with terrific messages.  One of my favorite was the story of Eagle & the Condor co-existing.  He spoke of the Eagle being a thinking bird, while the Condor by use feelings. Without each other, neither could exist for they need to fly together and use each others traits because of each creates a imbalance which leads to suffering.  He went on to tell us that often people get this imbalance and much good would come if we begin to think with our heart and feel with our brain.  He eloquently expressed that in order to form a relationship with nature we need to stop thinking about why things work the way they do, and start feeling at one with nature and take our place amongst it.  Many people spend too much time rushing for the little things in life, because we make the little thing too important; Billyak’s advice is to stop, slow down and feel our surroundings.

Another visitor to our Eco-Tour was life time area resident, Jonathon Fonos, a local fisherman and conservationist.  He re-emphasized the theme of giving back to nature; noting that if we look after the forests, we will in turn be looked after.  He also noted that he was fond of experiential learning within the natural environment by sharing that “you in’t going to learn by watching;I got a lot of nicks on my fingers by doing.”  Jonathon, described a few recent local controversies that he had been instrumental in preventing in the name of the forest.  He and a team stopped the construction of a northern logging route because the long term effects would have dire consequences to the region. He also noted that once Weyerhaeuser moved away from the area he noted an significant increase in animal activity, because they were no longer suppressed by the damage of the logging company.  Jonathon, related the problem of monetizing the forest in these words, “Too often we try to sell the coop, instead of the eggs.”

Out on the west side of Prince Albert National Park, Gord Vaadeland lead us on horse, chuck wagon and mountain bike.  We traveled the trails and continued to identify plants and learn of their traditional uses.  We had the binoculars on the ready in case we came upon any wildlife, particularly the legendary wild bison that roam this area. We didn’t make visual contact with the bison but they did let us know they were there by wallowing and grunting deep within the bush.  That was a sound I won’t soon forget.  After of trail ride, Gord joined us back at camp to present the work he has been doing with the Sturgeon River Bison Stewards.  We learned of their connection with bison and a few neat facts about this herd of large animals.

Our weekend finished on a excited, by ultimately sad note.  On our final hike we happened upon a bird on the shore of Ness Creek. It looked different and we had a hard time identifying it because it was sitting in an awkward position.  Then it flapped and we realized that it had been caught up.  Upon further investigation we found the bird to be an Osprey that had become entangled in a ball of twine.  Immediately Billyak set to work in freeing the bird from this trap.  As the Osprey was too weak to fly or for much else we had it taken to the Vet Hospital in Saskatoon where we hoped it would recover. It looked promising, but 10 days later, this strong bird of prey fell victim to wounds it had suffered.  This was a prime example of human impact on the natural world. Even though we mean to look after this environment there are others that have yet to be educated of the dire consequences we have when we step foot in the natural world.

Saskatchewan Outdoor & Enviromental Educators Association turns 40

I have been looking back through the SOEEA archives and interviewed Jack McKenzie in preparation for this article.  Video of my discussion with Jack will be up soon. Please let me know if you have any further info regarding SOEEA or questions about the associations history. I think it is a valuable exercise to dive into the history of an association to really develop an understanding of missions and visions. I am now far more driven in this regard thanks to my research project.  Enjoy!

40th Anniversary Article
by: Kyle Lichtenwald

40 years ago a group of passionate educators came together to create an organization that we have come to know as the Saskatchewan Outdoor & Environmental Educators Association (SOEEA). In the beginning outdoor education was emphasized and the environmental awareness aspect not yet been realized; the group was known as S.O.E.A – Saskatchewan Outdoor Educators Association. Our pioneers came together to promote the importance of learning in and about our natural world within Saskatchewan education systems. As Jack Mackenzie noted in a recent interview, “[T]he goal was to blow fresh air into the school system”. From the beginning, an inter-disciplinary approach was utilized. Early leaders came together from many subject areas including Science, Physical Education, Arts Ed., Social Studies, Math, History and from many levels including youth agencies, Saskatchewan Universities, and various School Boards. It was recognized that much of the curricular content could be applied and taught in outdoor environments.

Through the early years S.O.E.A offered a number of conferences, workshops and then in 1973 the first issue of our newsletter, Envisage, was published. In 1974, S.O.E.A assisted the ministry with preparing for and publishing ‘Out to Learn: Guidelines and Standards Manual for Outdoor Environmental Education’. This was a provincial education document that was designed to assist teachers in developing safe and well-organized outdoor education programs. Out to Learn was more recently revised and republished in collaboration with Sask. Ed. in 1991. These publishing efforts and 5 successful conferences lead to the broadening of S.O.E.A’s reputation as a model association that was quickly becoming recognized to educators across Canada. In 1975 S.O.E.A hosted Canada’s second National Outdoor Education Conference, “Challenge for Education – Hope for Environment”. This renowned event was held during four warm autumn days and hosted in Fort San. This conference brought 400+ people together to work towards our common goal of infusing effective outdoor education practices. The keynote speaker was the sought after Dr. Julian Smith, a professor from Michigan State University that had mentored many Canadians interested in the area of outdoor education. Dr. Smith had long seen outdoor education as a means for curriculum enrichment. In his work he noted that our natural environment provides a learning climate which allows students direct and authentic experiences¹.

Environmental concerns began to enter Saskatchewan’s collective conscious in the late 70’s and in 1978 the name was changed to Saskatchewan Outdoor & Environmental Educators Association under Chairman Barry Mitschke’s direction. The name change, as well as a revamped mission and vision, came as a result of shifting societal concerns. Another milestone at this time was the awarding of the first Melanson award to Jack McKenzie for his long term commitment to outdoor and environmental education in Saskatchewan. Since then, 19 other notable Saskatchewan educators have received this award for innovative teaching techniques, demonstrating knowledge of natural environments and taking a holistic approach to outdoor education. To these recognized individuals we gratefully pass on a heart-felt thanks for their continued efforts.

Through out the 1980’s SOEEA volunteers continued to host numerous conferences and workshops. During this time, members visited destinations of Candle Lake, Cypress Hills, Saskatoon, Lumsden, Waskesiu, Moose Jaw, Fort Qu’appelle and Moose Mountain Provincial Park. Numerous articles and resources continued to be shared through Envisage newsletter. Long time S.O.E.E.A chair person and Melanson recipient, Barry Mitschke, wrote “The Status of Formal and Informal Outdoor/Environmental Education in Saskatchewan: 1986 A SOEEA Research paper”. This involved a province wide survey of educators on the status of Outdoor/Environmental Education. In addition, SOEEA worked with Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation to launch the still popular Project Wild Resource Guide. It was and is common for SOEEA to send members to national and international conferences yearly. A highlight from 1987, involved 6 SOEEA delegates that went to the NAAEE conference in Quebec City to learn from and collaborate with leaders in the field.

Over the years, SOEEA collected membership dues and received minor grants for initiatives and continue rely heavily on the work done by strong collective efforts of a dedicated group of volunteers. Until the early 90’s financial support from SOEEA had been limited. This changed in May 1994 when we were able to start supporting Environmental Action projects and field excursions. This financial support helped teachers and students get outside, promote active healthy lifestyles, appreciate the natural environment, challenge participants’ thinking and encourage long-term changes in behaviour. Many Saskatchewan students have benefited from this funding during the years.

By 1995, SOEEA’s mission had shifted from being focused on outdoor learning and pursuit, towards a much stronger emphasis on environmental concerns. Our eligibility as a recreation association had come under question and we worked on reviewing our mission and goals. Through this process we re-focused on the importance of becoming active within our environment and getting outside again. It was at this time that SOEEA introduced the first Eco-tour to the newly establish Grasslands National Park, in south-west Saskatchewan. These tours continue to attract many interested parties and help folks gain awareness of our different eco-regions. Through these trips, many gained an appreciation for the importance of outdoor education and are inspired to bring their students and family’s to the areas visited. This year SOEEA is hosting its 15th Eco-Tour to the Boreal Learning Centre in Ness Creek, Saskatchewan.

We have again reviewed our strategic planning in recent years and re-configured our structure to include collaborative working groups. Our mission and goals have been re-vamped to clarify our current vision and lead us onward towards our quest for interdisciplinary, progressive education within our province. We strive to assist in the creation, co-ordination and delivery of integrated high quality outdoor and environmental education programs. Saskatchewan students deserve an education that takes them outside and offers first hand experiences. SOEEA labours to support Saskatchewan educators in the development of appropriate and responsible endeavours to meet these needs of our students. Going forward, we are moving to offer certification programs in the area’s of outdoor and environmental education. It is our hope that through these programs Saskatchewan educators will be empowered to explore new techniques, develop local programs and assist their colleagues in the development of projects and programs.

As we look back and celebrate our past at this time, our future still plays prominently. Our board understands that we need to continue to push ourselves beyond the classroom walls, to build connections & partnerships, support each other, and to come together in a community of activism in pursuit of sustainability goals. We will be able to sustain ourselves and our efforts through our connections with one another.

¹SchoolYard Enhanced Learning: Using the Outdoors as an Instructional Tool, K-8. By Herbert Broda 2007

EdTech Posse 5.4 – Grumpy Old Digital Residents

from courosa - http://www.flickr.com/photos/courosa/3400178819/

I had the good fortune to be invited on to the Edtech Posse Podcast once again last week. I joined Rob Wall, Dean Shareski, & Heather Ross for a conversation about teaching digital safety & awareness, as well as discussion on the concept of digital resident vs. digital tourist. Unfortunately, the Posse missed having Alec & Rick join the conversation as I hardly filled their role. As a noob, I learned that the clicking of a mouse can be picked up by the mic and so could my wife’s cello practice. Sorry Guys. Thanks for the invite.

Listen here

image credit: courosa – http://www.flickr.com/photos/courosa/3400178819/

iT Summit – Old, Live Blog

Last month I had the great opportunity to attend the Saskatchewan iT Summit in Saskatoon.  Attending these conferences in a fantastic way to network face to face.  I met new colleagues, Sarah Hill & Kristin Dimini, online pals Clarence Fisher & Eldon Germann, and a number of my mentors and teaching friends from within Saskatchewan, including Alec Couros, Dean Shareski, Richard Schwier, Donna Desroches, Rob Wall, Kathy Cassidy, Dean Loberg, & Charles Paul Bazin Webster. I missed a few here, please forgive me.

Overall the conference was well managed. I was fed well and walked away with more ideas, motivation and inspiration for the day I get my own class of students. These events really do give me rush of teaching & learning adrenaline.

One of my purposes for attending was to live blog the event and test ustream & coveritlive in preparation for TLt 2009.  Unfortunatly, the internet was patchy at best. I used coveritlive for couple sessions and will embed below. David Warlick agreed to having his keynote ustreamed but I couldn’t get ustream off the ground.  For the remainder of the sessions I attended I made the following notes. While the intent was to live-blog, I must apologize that this was 5 or 6 weeks ago. No longer is it a liveblog but rather 5-6 week old blog.

David Warlick – Keynote

– starts by teaching us something he learned in past 24 hours
– **if we expect to teach with 21th century learners we must live & teach using those same skills

tags – redefine literacy, warlick

2nd life office – hhtp://davidwarlick.com/sl/ – demo of getting resources from 2nd Life office

tour of 21st century office – reg. telephone is redundant in mobile world. connected to ppl & family in new ways. Revolutionized our culture

With cell phones men can now shop in the grocery store – ‘I dont make mistakes anymore’

study – Berkely – How much information?  (is out there)  in 2002 we had 5 xo bytes of info to the sum of total info. 5 xo bytes + 37 more libraries of congress.  Only 1/100 of 1% got printed on paper.  We spend too much time teaching kids how to use paper

webcam – allows us to become more virtual – office wont need extra chairs bc we online

– MIT wearable computer. hi tech suit. – fully networked jacket, bluetooth – $640
– accessorize with tech – mic on pinky, speaker on thumb
– gps toe ring ( put in cord’s right vibrates for right turn, left for left turn)

***preparing children for a future we cant clearly describe.
**what do our kids need to learn in order to live in an unpredictable future
**stop intergrateing technology – instead integrate literacy

**best thing we can teach kids is how to teach themselves
**part of being literate is being capable to question, investigate

url backchecking – delete tail of URL – look for clues to digital literacy – find email of author – google vincent.breeding@stormfront,org -> http://stormfront.org

If all we’re teaching our kids to do is read, are children really literate? we were taught to read what someone handed to us. library, parent, teacher. now we read in a global electronic library that anybody can publish to. need to rethink what it means to be literate

wikipedia – NDP – biased? what’s the problem – info may not be reliable – wikipedia blocks ip addresses of capitol hill because they targeted opponents pages

what does it mean to be literate – expose what is true – find, critically evaluate, organize, apply it

arithmetic – the new nature of numbers – access earthquake info, generates huge data set – grab data paste info into excel – convert txt to columns wizard – put into scatter graph – graph comes out as map of plate technoics – map allows numbers to tell their story. – new skills involved in having #’s tell their story

words of humankind -> presidential inaugural address -> copy text & paste into tagcrowd -> look at 75 most used words of all the addresses in a tag cloud -> new ways to look at info
– compare president speeches, maybe war time addresses. george washiton to george w. bush

**put new lenses on info to get students to ask questions about info

keyboard & intuem 2 -> math – reworkign numbers in music to create new music

#’s are mechanism of our world – less time of levers & pullys

video not as powerful without music -> art & music are essential

communicate with text, image, sound, video,

contemporary literacy – exposing whats true – employing the info – express ideas compellingly – doing it in an ethical context – redefine literacy so it reflects today’s info enviro & integrate that

Spam – cost the world 50$ billion in 2005 expected to double by 2007
we could control HIV/Aids for under $27 billion

– imperative to have ethical use of information

It’s scary because we are redefining what we do – at core of reforming education today

no longer in industrial age – now the world is the currriculum and the world changes everyday

as teachers we need to be master learners

BEST Prezi I’ve seen

Clarence Fisher – Literate Online: Reading & writing are different online – Notes

7/8 Snow Lake – 7.5 hour drive to saskatoon

– Classrooms are most important. -> need to do everything we can to make sure classrooms are quality places to be
– Training kids for IBM accusation from director, rather Clarence helps kids become literate
– very tech advanced society. kids need to know how to access, find and evaluate information
– different to grow up knowing you have an audience. We didnt have that
– text today has many access points – hypertext is choose your own adventure
– print literacy is more important now because there is so much more – many components to a web page  —– *** very multi modal
-text has always been changing

– what could be coming – bumptop (emulate a real desktop), firefox auora (fluid interactive charts & graphs, search
-Information & access continues to evolve – we’re in the middle of change
– 1st time is history where literacy practices are going to be affected by corporations

-electronic vs static text – worries Clarence – Ipod itunes led to video & podcasting – Apple led to a great influx of use

-electronic is not static – not about message but about socialability – can change & view text with someone else

-collaborative nature of tools – google docs example international teen life project – kids in columbia, jakarta, georgia – choose a topic that is important to kids in their country (HIV, eating disorders) –  research then script then they made a collaborative video, north american schools responsible for video editting
leave questions, comments for each other

we do it to make connections, need to plan connections 4-6 months in advance

1. Access
2. Evaluate – what’s important, not info overload but filter failure
3. comprehend – text is one way of sharing info. some are text illiterate others may be video illiterate
4. Share – remix culture & copyfight
– different from traditional reader/writer workshops – now radio plays with 3000 listens + feedback & advice for improvement
– kids attitude is motivated to produce higher quality if they know they have an audience
– 24,000 views on one girl’s blog – gr 8 13 year old
– scratch – build animations.  Now has community & get feedback & audience from forum. download other peoples work to see how they may have down a certain build
– 35% of scratches are remixes
– how do blogs & wikis change media?  “You don’t have to be a rich old guy from New York to be heard”    -sudent response

145 blog posts in 190 days – comments are correlated

Students do 2 posts per week – 1 required – eg. what has your research process for _____ been?, 1 of choice
Blogs are hybrid spaces- develop digital citizenship skills,

igoogle account + RSS – subscribe to lists of blogs, podcasts, videos

– at beginning, give kids 5-6 places to read. Later they find their own resources.  Set list of required but kids can find and present their own sources. Sit down every couple weeks to find out what kids are learning from their feeds.

– no use writing gobblygoop – need to find % of info that is relevant

– **Filtering is so important – we dont teach our kids anything when we filter our internet tools

Protocol – hit back button if you get in the wrong place, hand in the air calling Mr. Fisher, then he asks how did you get there

**change from acceptable use policies to responsible use policies**

new kinds of communities emerge

cant give kids access to info & say that is enough – need to teach why access is important & how to filter & how to use it to learn

need to know how to use the tools

wikipedia as a starter then back it up. Need to understand bias

newseum.com track a story from around world

**internet spaces are complex spaces – sometimes advertising we can see – only 16% of kids can see the ads from the info**

textbooks has always been suspect but we weren’t aware of it.

David Warlick – Video Gaming

New info enviro – Unpredictable Future – Networked Learners (Kids are different)

UK huge into gaming –

not sure the answer is 2nd life – many many options (OpenSim)

Glen Wiebe – ESSDACK – research on literature – “Videogames are extremly tasty patterns of reality”

David Williamson Shaffer – about roles & rules

tech becomes simpliar but games become more complex – Wiebe says the brain at play demands complexity

google scholar search for Video games in education

games are learning engines – cnat get to next level unless you learn something

Book – Got Game by: John Beck & Mitchell Wade

Video Game generation is more social than previous generations – very good at collaborating

LAN parties – never more than 2 at a time – others sit and talk about the game – talk about plot and decisions of game developers

Pong evolved

Some games
– rollercoaster tycoon – design the coaster – business ed
– pitman – crash landed on planet, & you’re starving – figure out what you can eat – discover a plant with feet as roots – train these plants to do things for you, rebuild spaceship, build shelter, find food – no instructions – figure out goals & rules
– assassins creed – go anywhere in the game – whole world is wide open – characters behave in certain ways – based on 13th century french village – kill based on politics

– little big planet – make your own game

Applying this into the classroom – do we need to bring a bunch of vids into classroom? NO

Why do I need to learn about Caesar when I am building Rome everyday

dont need to bring game into classroom but bring conversation about the game into the classroom

Serious games – seriousgames.org

games, learning & society

Game cultures

study on how kids cheat and the benefits of it – cheating is problem solving

passively multi-user online games …or information as game – depth of research you builds an accumulation of points

machinima – script the game into a movie – would never occur to us to turn a game into a movie set – television can now be remixed

Sylvia Martinez – video on gaming – playing with actions help students understand concepts

Lastly, please check out the EdTech Posse: Live from Winstons for an overview of conference thoughts.

Walls of the University Weaken

Though my education career has been brief, I have been the recipient of many unique experiences with fantastic mentors. Dean Shareski has taken me under his wing, and has given me a chance to observe a number of classrooms around Moose Jaw. Dr. Alec Couros, has brought me into a couple of his education technology courses as an assistant. Dr. Vi Maeers, has given me the opportunity to work with the University of Regina’s Centre for Teaching and Learning as a research assistant. Each of these roles have furthered my thinking about education and the possibilities that exist.

This semester I have the opportunity to work as a tech assistant on another intriguing and mind opening graduate class, Ed 870 – Social Justice and Globalization.  The description from the syllabus is as follows,

ED 870 explores the research and classroom practice of themes including how to be an activist teacher, health and nutrition, basic education, HIV/AIDS, child protection, gender equality, diversity/multiculturalism, First Nations, infrastructure services, human rights, democracy and good governance, notions of citizenship, private sector development, the environment/sustainability, how to make a positive difference; considers the implications of integrating these themes into the mainstream curriculum and into our professional lives.

Needless to say, I am learning a substantial amount from the course professor, Dr. Marc Spooner, as well as from the U of R’s Centre for Academic Technologies Manager, Glenn Enright and my fellow course assistant, Evan Thornton and of course, the graduate students. Dr. Spooner appreciates and embraces the realities made possible by technology to connect individuals both synchronously and asynchronously. The course runs face-to-face on Wednesday nights and full recorded broadcasts can be found here. The students have responded with blog posts, to snippets of recorded conversations from class recordings. Evan has done great work managing the course blog and creating this first assignment video. My role is to set up and run the in-class technology required to stream and record, as well as connect to virtual guest speakers and experts.

As I have mentioned, this course is one of the coolest episodes I have witnessed during my brief education career. I have seen global connections happen between a number of elementary and high school classrooms, and within several ed tech university courses. This, however, is one of the first non tech courses that has effectively used technology to reach beyond the walls of the course itself.  Last class we connected with Dr. Anthony Hall’s course on Globalization Studies from the University of Lethbridge. Dr. Hall & Dr. Spooner addressed both groups with their knowledge, introduced the students, noted similarities between learning and gave the students in both rooms an opportunity for dynamic conversation and questioning. Two classes, two universities, two smart professors, an awesome exchange. I ustreamed the whole event (in two parts) to the world live.

Our next class is two weeks away and the plan is to have Ignacio Chapela, a microbial ecologist and mycologist at the University of California, Berkeley, visit via skype to share knowledge of the biotechnology and food industries.

Later in the semester we hope to be visited by the controversial Bill Ayers, professor at the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Formal education is changing. The walls are coming down. I have front row seats.

Tiltshifting, Learning and the Web

As I surfed the web today, I found this beautiful timelapse, tiltshifted video of life in Sydney, Australia. It truly warmed me up on this Saskatchewan winter day.

The North Wind Blew South from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

What I love even more about this is the story of Keith and his new fame. He is creating new art in a way that hasn’t been done before and it is spreading to wide audiences around the world. This is a story of an amateur who has perfected his craft to become a professional who is being requested for art shows and exhibitions around the world.

I tweeted the link to Keith’s Vimeo Channel and soon my acquaintance, Neil, replied with links to two of his favorite tiltshift artists Olivo Barbieri and Toni Hafkenschied.  This inspired me to learn more.

Tiltshifting was new to me. I needed to learn more. I found info on composing tiltshifting on wikipedia and realized it needed special equipment or edditing software. Upon further searching I found tiltshift maker, a program that automatically tiltshifts pictures. Below is a slide show of some pictures from my European vacation this past summer that I experimented tiltshifting with.  Do you have a favorite?

I like this style because it adds a different perspective. I get the feeling that some of these images could be minature models or toys. As in life situations, value can be gained by looking at things in a different way.

Neil, tiltshifted some of his photo’s and commented that he wanted to try this project with his students. Without this web based program, timeshifting would be difficult for his students to do. Hopefully he and the class give it a shot.

Winter Geocaching Considerations

After publishing this post on Geocaching in the Saskatchewan Outdoor & Environmental Association’s Fall Newsletter, Envisage, I was contacted by a middle years teacher who wanted more information.  Together, Paul & I exchanged email with the hope to bring teachers together for a Saturday morning workshop.  Our winter weather turned frigid and the workshop hasn’t materialized yet.  In preparation for this meetup, and for future reference I gathered resources on geocaching and compiled them on the wiki, GeoCachewithKyle.

Frustrated with the weather and having a hankering to try winter geocaching, I decided to spend time in the forests, and on the trails, of Duck Mountain Provincial Park with my brother.  Searching for caches in the winter certainly proved difficult and I had a few key learnings from the experience that I need to share.  I hadn’t adequately prepared the information from www.geocaching.com. I did write down the coordinates correctly and the name of the cache but in most instances I neglected to write down the clues or specific details. Next time I will put more time into this front end of this process.  I was naive to think we wouldn’t need the Google Map printout, which would have been handy at times.  Having only previously cached in non-wooded areas I was unable to foresee the affects the trees would have on the GPS reading; had I been thinking, I would have packed a compass to back up my conscious and negate the fear that we may be walking in circles.  Had I better prepared the trip we would of had a much higher success rate than 1 out of 4 caches. With all this being said, it was certainly fun to skidoo the trails, high step through thick snow, tramp across frozen marshes and enjoy the sounds of the forest.

I made a short clip of our experiences that day.

Give it a watch.

This video also highlights a few more things folks should consider about geocaching.  Both safety and ‘leave no trace’ principles are a concern at different intervals of the experience. At one point I slip and fall, and other point shows us nearly mow over a young sampling.  Reflecting on the experience brings these issues to light. These two principles must be at the forefront of planning such an outdoor excursion.


You are scratching your head right now, thinking, what is S.O.E.E.A? Well, S.O.E.E.A, stands for Saskatchewan Outdoor & Environmental Educators Association, and they recently named me to the board, as Leader of the Communications Working Group. I am honoured to be be involved in this active association and hope to contribute philosophy that enables Saskatchewan educators.  This is excellent opportunity for me to pursue my love of the natural world, while gaining valuable professional relationships and experience.

The potential for using web tools to communicate and collaborate is tremendous. As a main effort, we attempt to encourage our colleagues to network across our fair province and share ideas, exemplary projects and pedagogies, as well as bask in the beauty of our natural wonders.

We are currently in talks to have our website re-worked to allow for open & social sharing; through current dialog about best practices and by creating a repository of resources for both students & teachers.

My recent tasks have included building a wiki to collect resources and for the board members to collaborate on upcoming newsletters and our brochure re-design. The response to this has be encouraging and we have quickly added convenience and accountability to some of our planning efforts.  In addition, I set up a flickr account for SOEEA and posted my images from a recent board retreat. I see this as a method to reach our members and share memories of SOEEA events. It is my hope that this leads to expanding our contacts as Saskatchewan photographers, enviromental education groups, students, educators, sponsors or anyone will be introduced to our group.

As we expand our profile, we appreciate anyway to you may contribute to the promotion of outdoor and environmental education. Let us know about relevant stories from your area. I bet each reader can think of a couple folks that would be interested in SOEEA or similar association. If you or anybody or any organization want to learn more about this group, please let me know.

Reflections on Dean Shareski’s Class & Continued Mentorship

My former instructor and current mentor, Dean Shareski, asked Darin, Nicole and myself to spare a few moments in order to speak to his under-graduate Educational Technology class this past October 1st.  This was great chance for me to look back, to reflect and to re-discover all that I had learned during Dean’s course and how he has influenced my development as an educator.  It was a neat experience to share via elluminate as a guest rather than participant or assistant.

Dean is one of my many mentors that have modeled these major learnings. I have learned how to use social web tools to connect and collaborate with strangers and new friends around the world; access knowledge and information I never knew existed; share resources, thoughts and opinions; discuss pedagogy, book reviews, teaching practices; build a personal learning environment; feel confident playing with new media creation; and think about my future classroom in a way that is more social, more active, more engaging, more empowering and more meaningful. I have learned to be a better learner.

With all of this said, here is Dean’s podcast recording from the class.

Podcast42…student voices

Not only was Dean’s class influential, but I am fortunate to live in the same town as Dean. This has lead to extended personal learning through a number of invitations to sidekick him on classroom adventures to observe and work with students in Prairie South Schools and to sit in on training sessions he offers to his teachers. Together we had a post-conference run down and reflection on ride home from the TLt Summit in Saskatoon last spring. He just is there when I have a tech/ed related question. Because of all of what he means to my own learning, and all leadership he offers so many educators, I was more than happy to sit in and visit his class for the evening.


September is a fantastic time of the year to try geocaching. The weather in Saskatchewan isn’t too hot or too cold. Autumn’s birth is on the horizon and by the third week we begin to see the leaves changing colour. The setting is almost perfect for an outdoor classroom.  Fortunately for me, I have been assigned to sub in grade 6/7 room for the last couple weeks. Prior to my arrival, the class had spent time refreshing their mapping skills and discussing location. Immediately, I saw this as excellent opportunity to experiment with GPS and geocaching to reinforce learning about direction, location and coordinates. Having never owned a Global Position System (GPS) unit, I had only a basic idea of how they worked but recognized the potential for learning.

Before we began to use the units outdoors, I knew we had to spend time discussing coordinates and distance until we all had a firm grasp on the concepts. Then we talked about how GPS units use 3 of 24 satellites circling the earth to triangulate our position and are then able to send exact coordinates of our location to the GPS unit.  To complete the overview we had a short study of the units interface. This helped to better understand the 5 different buttons, the 5 different screens and become aware of the vocabulary involved with marking or finding the coordinates of a location.

We used the GPS units in our outdoor classroom three times.

Our first outdoor experience took place on a Wednesday, in the school yard, where I had marked the coordinates of landmarks (soccer goalpost, the slide, a lightpole).  I gave the coordinates of the landmarks to the students, who in turn input the digits into the GPS units. The students were then asked to find which locations the coordinates were for. Each student found each of the locations, but mostly because they followed those walking in front of them.

Back in the classroom we debriefed. I fired up the projector and loaded Google Maps. On the satellite view of the maps we found Sunningdale School in Moose Jaw. I typed in the first coordinate for the goalpost and the students watch as the Google marker landed there.  I then asked “which direction the marker would go if the western coordinate was increased?” and “what if the Northern coordinate decreased?” and so on. We reinforced the concept of longitude and latitude.

The following Friday, we embarked on our second outdoor adventure.  Pairs of students were asked to mark 5 coordinates/landmarks for another pair. Once the locations were marked in the GPS unit, the students swapped units and went exploring to find the unknown destinations.  At this point I could hear students working together and making guesses as to which landmark the coordinates would take them to. They were all running, trying to find the best landmark and appeared extremely involved in the activity.

Upon returning to the classroom we discussed and watched a short introductory video on the growing outdoor sport of Geocaching.  We talked about guidelines and the ethics of the sport. About different types of caches and the types of “treasures” swapped when a cache is found. Then, to reinforce guidelines for geocaching, we recited the GeoCreed, (shared with me by another Grade 6 teacher in Victoria, BC, named Jan Smith).

On Monday morning one of the Gr.6 students appeared in the doorway before the bell. He told me of his Saturday adventure Geocaching.  He had signed up an account on geocaching.com, where he found numerous listings of geocaches. Each listing shows a map of the approximate area in which the cache is located and gives a hint as to the location.  Without a GPS unit, this student printed the map, hopped on his bike and went out geocaching. He came in early that Monday to explain how and where he found his first THREE geocaches. He went on to explain that after he found the caches, he logged back into geocaching.com and posted to the discussion board for each cache to show he had been there and note what he swapped. He was beaming with pride. The class was enthralled with this boy’s story and could not wait to find their own cache.

The next morning we set off to find the cache that I had hid the night before.  After hiding the cache in a park near the school, I hid 9 clues with coordinates for the next stops along the route.  The class worked together to find each of the clues in sequence and utilized their mapping skills to find the shortest route to the next destination.  The students learned that even though the GPS points the way to the coordinate’s location, sometimes houses would get in the way and they couldn’t go the way of the crow.  Upon finding each clue the students intensity grew, they reached a point where they knew the direction just from me reading the coordinates. By the last few clues they could have gone on without the device. They found the cache and thoroughly enjoyed the lollypops and pride that came with completing this challenging task.

There have been talks of continuing this outdoor pursuit in collaboration with a class from a nearby school if time allows.  We may plant a cache of items for them and email instructions for finding it. Then in turn they would take the container, swap items and plant the cache for us.  Following the activity, students from each class would correspond about their adventures to find the caches, explain to each other why they left and took the items they did. Ultimately, the students would benefit from interacting and building community with another group of students engaged in a fun learning experience.