“Tech”ing it to the Natural Environment

Area(s) of Focus: technology
Division(s): Primary, Intermediate, Junior
Level(s): Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8

This project examines how technology can be used to enhance inquiry in the natural environment. Educators explored taking the learning beyond the four walls of the classroom and into existing outdoor spaces.

The “Tech”ing it to the Natural Environment project will extend kindergarten to Grade 8 student inquiry into the natural environment. At Stirling Public School, we have a natural woodland area with rustic trails and a creek, and are committed to utilizing our outdoor spaces for inquiry and active play-based learning. We believe an engaging and inclusive outdoor environment will extend our school focus on curiosity, creativity and collaboration. We envision the learning area as a place to experience curriculum connections in math, social studies, science and beyond. It will be a place to continue critical thinking, discovery, problem-solving and cooperative skills that have begun in classrooms. By taking the learning outside to the “Learning Forest,” students will be provided with authentic experiences that will help develop their awareness of nature and sustainability, and help them become ambassadors of nature. As part of the “Tech”ing it to the Natural Environment project, students will utilize various technological tools to explore curriculum connections, examine nature, document their learning, and create awareness and information materials to promote the importance of the environment. Technology will also be used to support virtual connections with natural environment experts and other schools or classrooms that share similar passions.

Team Members

  • Terri Kirkey

    Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board

  • Teresa Hadley

    Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

  • Increased personal knowledge of purposeful integration of technology to support inquiry based learning
  • Engaged in collaborative learning with educators and students
  • Increased our knowledge of using natural spaces for learning in service of providing rich curricular opportunities for students and educators

Activities and Resources

  • Explored the purposeful use of technology to support documentation and communication with the broader community (Twitter, blogging, QR codes)
  • Explored the use of technology to support the redefinition of learning tasks. Some examples included:
    • geotagging
    • time-lapse photography to document the growth and change in the forest
    • use of Google Slides to create awareness posters
    • use of proscopes to observe and document nature up close
  • Developed a Student Conservation Team with students from grades 4 to 8
  • Invited local guests to speak to us about environmental issues (e.g., guest from Quinte Waste Solutions)
  • Consulted with outdoor education specialists to design and construct elements to encourage communication and collaboration during all seasons (e.g., circle benches, balance beams)
  • Created a “Grab-it-and-Go” backpack with pencils, binoculars, field guides and magnifying glasses for use in the forest
  • Generated an ongoing collaborative list connecting the Ontario curriculum to outdoor learning opportunities/activities for grades kindergarten to 8 (e.g., science and social studies)

Unexpected Challenges

  • Students and staff engaged in geocaching in our “Learning Forest.” However, the process of creating our own caches was more challenging than anticipated.
  • The response to our shared-curriculum file was not what we were hoping. We think this is due to the fact that we have large grade teams (e.g., four Grade 3 teachers) who collaborate and plan together. We will continue to reach out and share with staff in our school and throughout the board.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

  • Increased student understanding of the importance of the natural environment
  • Increased understanding of how technology can support communication of ideas to a wider audience
  • Student development of the global competencies (e.g., citizenship, leveraging digital) 
  • Increased student engagement observed during outdoor learning experiences and during related extension activities 


  • Conversations and sharing at staff meetings
  • Invitation to other educators to join after school meeting/course on outdoor education topics
  • Announcements and presentations by the Conservation Team
  • Blogger and Twitter to reach a wider audience
  • District sharing opportunities through our board’s district review process
  • Documentation and ongoing collaborative list will be shared with other schools in the district to encourage the use of their natural spaces
  • Teaching a summer workshop entitled “Beyond The Walls” to share our learning and resources from this experience

Project Evaluation

We have been grateful for this experience and have tried many new things! We are pleased with how the project has unfolded and feel that our overall goals have been met. We have grown as educators and have added to our understanding of  the purposeful use of technology, as well as instruction and assessment beyond the classroom. We are looking forward to continuing on this journey next year.

The timing of this project has been ideal because our principal and other educators at our school have also been enthusiastic about the use of our forest and outdoor learning spaces. Many teachers have made use of the technologies purchased through this project (e.g., proscopes, conference camera). The field guides and our “Grab-it-and Go” backpack have also been used regularly to support inquiry learning in the forest and outdoor spaces.

Through our project, we have been offered additional opportunities such as being EcoSchool leads and receiving their training and resource supports. We have also been given the opportunity to run a 2-day workshop this summer supporting educators in the use of outdoor spaces for learning and assessment. We feel that it connects to our learning through our TLC and gives us another opportunity to share and to build our database of grade level curriculum connections.

Check out our database through this address:


Resources Used

  • Support from various outdoor education specialists (i.e., local conservationists)
  • Support from System Education Technology Support staff within the board
  • The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Nature in a Virtual Age by Richard Louv