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

VICTORIA, CANADA - MARCH 25: BC Ambulance Services stock photography session March 25, 2013 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Jeff Vinnick Images)
Paramedics responding to increased volume of overdose calls

Data released by BC Emergency Health Services shows a rising provincial trend of overdose responses

Recipients of last year’s Winter Games Legacy Grant funds. Bulletin file.
City of Kimberley accepting applications for Winter Games Legacy grants

Grants are available for amateur sports organizations

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick. Bulletin file
No need for travel bans: Kimberley Mayor

While there has been plenty of chatter lately about the possibility of… Continue reading

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

Interior Health has declared the Cariboo Chilcotin a community cluster. (Angie Mindus photo)
Interior Health declares Cariboo Chilcotin region a COVID-19 cluster, 215 cases since Jan. 1

Most cases are related to transmission at social events and gatherings in Williams Lake

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Vernon's Noric House long-term care facility is dealing with an influenza outbreak amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)
Two more deaths at Vernon care home

Noric House case numbers remain steady, but death toll rises

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

Most Read