The Walking Curriculum gets students outside and connecting with nature. (Amanda Peterson/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The Walking Curriculum gets students outside and connecting with nature. (Amanda Peterson/Special to S.F. Examiner)

‘Walking Curriculum’ crafted by SFU professor surges in popularity

The outdoor curriculum encourages students to connect with the natural world

More and more teachers have been taking their classes outside during COVID-19, but most of them probably don’t know that an actual curriculum exists for this.

The Walking Curriculum is a teaching resource developed by Saanich-born, Simon Fraser University assistant professor Gillian Judson that focuses on cultivating imagination, observation and connection to the land in students from Kindergarten to high school.

“It’s really tapping into notions of the land and the place as co-teachers that have been at the heart of Indigenous ways of knowing for far longer than Western thought,” Judson said.

READ ALSO: Educators told to teach more Indigenous lessons – what does that mean in practise?

Gillian Judson is an assistant professor in educational leadership at Simon Fraser University. (Courtesy of Gillian Judson)

The curriculum is divided into 60 outdoor walking exercises, each one designed to engage students’ emotions and imaginations with particular aspects of the world around them. In one exercise, students are asked to go for a walk around the schoolyard searching for different visual, auditory and textual patterns.

Just because the lessons are outside does not mean they’re recess though.

“It’s not meant to be a break from learning,” Judson emphasized. “It’s meant to be an extension.”

Teachers who have used her curriculum have told Judson their students become more observational, engaged and mindful of the natural world.

“The purpose is to change the disposition of the teacher,” Judson said. She wants them to realize that there is a world of meaningful and beneficial learning outside of the math and science that occurs inside the classroom.

Although Judson said it wasn’t her original intention for creating the curriculum, the lessons are also beneficial for students’ mental health. Research shows being outdoors and walking can lift peoples’ moods and reduce their anxiety, among other things.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 has depressed mental health of Canadian youth

Judson published her curriculum in 2018, but since COVID-19 hit its popularity has skyrocketed. When the world was first thrown into lockdown, she made copies of her book available to parents for free for two days and had 881 requests. She said she’s curious to see if teachers stick with it after the pandemic has passed.

“I just don’t believe that we ever need to stop cultivating a sense of wonder or education,” Judson said. “We should always aim as educators to keep the sense of wonder of our students alive, whether they’re 45-year-olds or four-year-olds.”

READ ALSO: Parents, educators push for outdoor learning experiments to address COVID fears


Do you have a story tip? Email: jane.skrypnek@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

CoronavirusEducationGreater Victoriamental healthOutdoorsSaanichschool curriculumSchoolsSFUUniversity of Victoria

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Chemainus teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

Pamela Anderson was given a Ladysmith Heritage Award for the restoration work on the Arcady Auto Court property that she purchased from her grandparents. (Pamela Anderson photo)
PHOTOS: Star-studded Ladysmith Heritage Awards honour local commitments to heritage

Barrie McDonald, Pamela Anderson, John & Luke Marston, and the Ladysmith Maritime Society recognized

Kim McGregor died in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run accident in Chemainus. (Photo submitted)
Victim identified in Valentine’s Day Chemainus hit-and-run

Kim McGregor grew up in Chemainus and had recently returned to be close to his parents

Ella Donovan with mom Tina outside Fuller Lake Arena before heading onto the ice for practice. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Young Ladysmith skater watches and waits in battle against cancer

Ella Donovan’s tumour began a tumultuous time, but community support eased the burden

The Ladysmith Museum has two new exhibits open to the public. (Cole Schisler photo)
Ladysmith museum opens up with two new exhibits

The museum is featuring Prime Predators of Vancouver Island and ‘Red Flag, Red Flag’

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

RCMP say a woman turned herself in to police after hitting a pedestrian and fleeing the scene of the accident in downtown Nanaimo on Friday morning. (File photo)
Driver flees, then turns herself in after hitting pedestrian in downtown Nanaimo

RCMP say woman was struck in marked crosswalk after driver ran red light

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

After nearly 10 months of investigations, Mounties have made an arrest in the tripping of an elderly woman in Burnaby this past April. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Mounties charge suspect for tripping elderly woman near Metrotown in April

32-year-old Hayun Song is accused of causing bodily harm to an 84-year-old using her walker

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives to view the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Death threats mount against Dr. Bonnie Henry, sparking condemnation from Horgan, Dix

Henry has become a staple on televisions in homes across British Columbia since January 2020

Several BC Ferries sailings are cancelled Friday due to adverse weather. (Black Press Media File)
All B.C. Ferries sailings cancelled due to winds, adverse weather

Adverse weather causes cancellations across several BC Ferries routes

Bryan Adams with his mom, Jane Adams Clark, at Lions Gate Hospital. (Bryan Adams)
Bryan Adams gives shout out to North Shore hospital

The singer’s mom was in Lions Gate Hospital for care

Shoppers will be able to get their hands on signed bottles of Ryan Reynolds’ new gin at B.C. liquor stores this summer. (Twitter/Ryan Reynolds)
Ryan Reynold’s Aviation Gin autographed and coming to B.C. stores

This summer 100 bottles will be available to the public for purchase across five B.C. liquor stores

Most Read