Master of Education class heads outdoors this fall

This fall, a Brock University class is leaving their desks behind and heading outside to learn.

Professors Debra Harwood, from the Faculty of Education and Mary Breunig from the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, are offering a Masters of Education course — EDUC 5P41: ECE-Learning/Teaching in the Woods — outdoors in the woods. The entire course will be taught outside.

“I think as educators we all need to come to the realization that learning happens everywhere and anywhere; learning happens when students are connected and vested with the material and spaces in which they inhabit,” says Harwood. “Educating outdoors is exciting; full of risk and one has to be open to the type of lateral–flexible thinking that is required.”

The idea to host the course entirely in the woods evolved from Harwood’s year-long research project with young children being educated outdoors. In this project, Harwood led a team of researchers in exploring the play, learning and developmental benefits of a forest school program for young children. In Year Two of the study, the team will investigate the ways in which pedagogies are enacted in various nature-based programs.

“Last year, the three to five year olds and their teachers had an amazing time exploring, investigating and experiencing all that nature had to offer,” says Harwood. “I wanted to offer this type of experience to graduate students in the Faculty of Education as well.”

The course will explore topics such as risk, sustainability, nature-culture binaries, place-based learning and teaching by immersing the students fully in nature. In addition, Harwood hopes the class will foster better theory-practice connections (e.g. experiential learning), develop and apply an inquiry mindset, critically evaluate the literature on outdoor learning, and connect students’ body-mind-spirits in their own learning processes.

The course will also feature a cross-collaboration with an undergraduate class-RECL 3P26 Outdoor and Environmental Education led by Breunig.

“It’s all pretty exciting and I look forward to seeing what unfolds in the woods,” says Harwood. “The woods, like the course, will be somewhat unpredictable and offer us all a few surprises along the way, but experiencing the woods first hand is key to fostering a climate where some of the dominant discourses that shape education can be critiqued.”

The class will be heading outdoors Tuesday mornings throughout the fall – for more information contact

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