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Students explore Guelph through new immersive geography program

Grade 9 program runs in conjunction with Guelph Lake Nature Centre
Grade 9 students from Our Lady of Lourdes are part of a new immersive geography program with the Guelph Lake Nature Centre.

Grade 9 students at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School are part of a new immersive, experimental geography program with the Guelph Lake Nature Centre.

Each week, students spend three to four days in the classroom and then travel to Guelph Lake or a specific place in Guelph, exploring the curricular objectives both traditionally and experientially. The learning on location is led by Greg Meredith, Environmental Education Specialist with the Guelph Lake Nature Centre.

The program is being funded for the entire school year and will be evaluated at the end of the year. 

Emily Case, one of two classroom instructors involved in the program, said this is a brand new take on the Grade 9 geography program.

“Geography is investigative exploration,” said Case in a release. “There is quite a wide range of learning objectives. Last week we looked at how to analyze soil, so first we learned all of the different types of soil and what makes up soil, and then we dug up the ground and learned how to break apart and do soil samples. Before that we were practicing using compasses, how to get your bearings, what to do when you’re lost.”

Since launching, the release adds the program has been well-received by students. 

“It’s been really great, the students really like Greg (Meredith) who is a wonderful instructor,” said Case. “They get to focus on what is in front of them, creating an awareness about Guelph itself and about our surroundings and city.”

While the class is categorically a de-streamed Grade 9 Issues in Canadian Geography class, it happens to support a number of new Canadians and multilingual students. The partnership with Guelph Lakes Nature Centre empowers students to become more fluent in English while learning about their new home.

“We know that ML students benefit from experiential learning options, as do all students and we know that anytime that a good teaching pedagogy is applied for ML students - all students benefit,” said Valerie Karunaratne, ELL Lead, Student Engagement and Transitions Resource Teacher, in the release. 

“Being in this learning environment could benefit ML students who have maybe arrived to Canada during the COVID lock down and haven’t had an opportunity to explore the community and experience what the different areas of Guelph have to offer.”

Beyond this most recent pilot program, the Guelph Lake Nature Centre has a lengthy partnership with Wellington Catholic District School Board offering all elementary students the opportunity to visit the nature centre for an educational field trip led by Environmental Education Specialists, as well as offering Environmental Science programs to Grade 11 students.