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

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

An injection kit is seen inside a Fraser Health supervised consumption site is pictured in Surrey, B.C., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Hope’s high rate of drug overdose noted in BC Coroners Service report

Up-to-date numbers not available yet for 2021, but Fraser Health deaths on the rise

Screenshot from security footage a young, thin cougar prowling on Oliver Crescent in Sardis on May 7, 2021. (Dustin Meyer photo)
VIDEO: Cougar sighting in residential Chilliwack neighbourhood prompts warning

Springtime cougar sightings likely due to cats following deer down to valley floor, says CO

<a href="Facebook users reported seeing a body on the side of the road this morning." target="_blank"></a>Facebook users reported seeing a body on the side of the road this morning. (File photo)
Man killed in fatal hit-and-run collision between Abbotsford and Chilliwack

Body reported at 6 a.m., police close North Parallel Road, single highway lane as they investigate

Westbound traffic is slow moving on Highway 1 following a crash that has police blocking one lane. Google Maps screenshot taken at 9:07 a.m.
TRAFFIC: Crash on North Parallel Road causes road closure, single westbound Highway 1 lane blocked

Abbotsford Police investigating, roads closed between McDermott and No. 3 Road

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

After Bobby Henderson apologized online for his comments to a Toronto reporter, the Langley Rivermen announced that he was no longer team coach and general manager and in fact, had ‘parted ways’ with the franchise in March. (file/Twitter)
Former Langley Rivermen coach and GM apologizes for comments to Toronto reporter

Bobby Henderson blames stress due to the pandemic for his ‘disparaging’ remarks

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of May 9

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read