On April 25, 2019, Balmoral Hall Parent Association (BHPA) was fortunate to listen to a presentation by Grade 3 Teacher Emily (Quinton) Mitchell '11. Emily shared how Balmoral Hall School's grades 3 to 5 educators have leveraged the resources available at FortWhyte Alive
to create authentic learning experiences for their students.
Emily began by showing attendees some photos of Grade 5 students from their fall experiential days, which focused on a weather unit, as well as photos from their recent spring experiential day. The focus of the latter changes from year to year, depending on the topic of May's Grade 5 Exhibition, and this year they explored environmental sustainability.
As part of an energy unit, Grade 4 students created musical instruments out of items in the FortWhyte forest, with the goal of mimicking sounds heard in nature. Emily stated that she is consistently amazed by what our girls come up with. In the winter, the Grade 4s gain a practical understanding of different aspects of the rock cycle using water, snow, and ice. This helps them make several connections within a rocky landscape unit. By spring, they are studying the circle of life, a unit which focuses on birds. As FortWhyte is home to 160 different species, our Grade 4s make multiple visits. Their latest trips were particularly exciting. On the first day, the girls made nests for various biomes; small ones were placed in trees and larger ones on the ground. When they returned the next day, there were geese using one of their nests in the field!
In Grade 3, our girls go to FortWhyte Alive five times: twice in the fall, and three times in the spring.
The first visits focus on education within a home sweet home unit, with an emphasis on Indigenous perspectives. Students spend time in a teepee, listening to Indigenous stories, learning about the Seven Sacred Teachings, and playing Indigenous games. Emily shared how impactful it is for our girls to have this experience – how it deepens their understanding of how teepees are made, why different ones are built in various parts of Canada, and what the etiquette is for entering and walking inside them. They also go to see FortWhyte's bison, an animal that is sacred and respected by Indigenous peoples. Another highlight is free time in the forest, during which students can explore, play games, and pick up items that they have questions about.
By April, the Grade 3s are immersed in a unit in which plants and soils figure prominently. During a trip to FortWhyte Alive in early April, our girls went on a nature walk to look for signs of insects, made insect homes, and went critter-dipping. They learned about various trees growing on the property and how they adapt to changing seasons. Aspens, for example, create a white powder that is a natural sunscreen. Students were also invited to try tree coring to see how old some of the specimens in the FortWhyte forest are.