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

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

It costs as little as $7 to charge an EV at home. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Electric Vehicles a rare sight (in the Kootenays), but change on the way

Electric pickups will increase the appeal of zero-emission vehicles in years to come according to Blair Qualey of the New Car Dealers Association

Linda Krawczyk and her dad Doug Finney enjoyed a ride around beautiful Fernie on Friday thanks to Melanie Wrigglesworth and the local chapter of Cycling Without Age. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Cycling Without Age goes for its first spin

Doug Finney (86) got to enjoy a ride around Fernie

The Cranbrook Community Forest is good to go for mountain biking. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Snow’s done, time to hit the trails

South Country trails are good to go

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
69 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 9,840 since the pandemic began

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

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

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Most Read