Winter Treasures is a magical six-week curriculum for Grade 3 classes based on a one-day winter outdoor experience at the Fleming/Dingle Park. It has a treasure hunt theme in which the children meet a “shape shifter” who they help by searching for hidden shapes in the natural world. The program focuses on endangered species and the steps children can take to help wild creatures.
A Magnificent Winter Adventure…
The children sit on a circle of benches in a small, protected forest hollow, with a glistening snow blanket giving a peaceful feeling to the spot. Their attention is riveted on an ornate costumed shape, which emerges out of the snow before them. The storyteller begins…”Long ago on earth, long before this age, there were lots of shape shifters in nature…
This is the students’ first meeting with “Epash”, the shape shifter who has been sending natural gifts to them at school for a couple of weeks as they were preparing for this journey out into the winter world on a treasure hunt for neat natural shapes. Epash is the central character in this sequential earth education program organized around an exciting one-day environmental experience at Fleming Park in Halifax. They are led through the day in small groups by trained high school leaders, who bring enthusiasm and a sense of adventure to the mission.
Epash is the one remaining shape shifter who is still alive in nature and Epash needs to find a friend. The children help bring the friend to life through their discoveries, both on the trip and in natural areas near home. The program focuses on endangered species and the steps young people can take to help wild creatures. The trip provides the springboard to integrate environmental learning into the curriculum over the next couple of months back in the classroom. The young people continue their winter explorations at home with their families using the Winter Treasures Nature Adventure Guide.
The Outdoor Trip…
Students spend the first part of their day-long adventure at the Fleming Park on a treasure hunt in which they learn to use special “explore tools” to discover shapes in nature. They search out shapes in tiny caves – small holes in the ground or tunnels in the snow. They discover the secret of the skeleton shapes of large trees as they lie on their backs and look up the trunks into the sky through their treasure sighting scopes. They take on the roles of shape shifters and try to camouflage themselves in the winter world so that a treasure hunter cannot find them.. They discover that the natural world is a healthy and fun place to explore in the winter season.
Learning Ecology in the Outdoors
In the afternoon students learn basic ecological concepts through a unique series of hands-on experiential activities in the woods. They discover wrapped gift boxes as they hike along a trail and come to realize that these gifts are the basic needs for life given to all creatures by the forest (food, air, water, and shelter). They learn the concept of habitat when they come upon a group of lost and endangered creatures in the forest (stuffed animals) who need homes. Each child adopts a creature and selects a home and habitat for it that can provide it with its basic needs. Finally, they learn that human actions can threaten homes and the survival of wild creatures, or help them, when they take on various creature roles as they move through the forest. This is active outdoor learning!
Making a Difference for the Earth
Environmental action is directly built into the final part of the outdoor adventure experience. By the end of the day it becomes clear that in order to find another shape shifter in nature, the children, and their leaders must commit themselves to a specific “earth step” or project that they will undertake at home or at school. This action must reduce the environmental impact of their lifestyle (i.e., use sand rather than salt to melt ice, walk rather than drive, lower thermostats, etc.), and/or be a means for them to continue to actively enjoy the outdoors in winter (go on a nature discovery hike, track animals, visit a quiet natural spot, etc.). Students then follow through with these commitments back at school and at home with the support of their teacher and the Winter Treasures Nature Adventure Guide. There is a special Winter Treasures poster illustrating the students’ adventures for all those who succeed!
Winter Treasures Teacher Resources
The Winter Treasures teacher manual and appendices (2007 version) can be downloaded below in PDF format.
Please recognize the importance of directly communicating with Hugh MacDonald at the Adventure Earth Centre (490-4539) with respect to making detailed arrangements and answering questions.