Canadian Geographic Education (Can Geo Education) is a delegation of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) responsible for bringing geographic education to indoor and outdoor classrooms across Canada. Can Geo Education partners with students, educators and the public to promote geographic awareness and to encourage all Canadians to become geo-literate.
On Wednesday July 12th, fourteen Canadian primary and secondary school teachers visited the Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics at the University of Ottawa as part of the 2017 Can Geo Education Summer Institute. Michelle Chaput, a PhD student in the Physical Geography program, spent the afternoon with the teachers and the Can Geo Education team, and shared her views on the importance of geographical education and the need for fieldwork activities to be included in curricula.
Chaput began the afternoon with a presentation about her own adventures in the field as well as key strategies to keep in mind when planning and leading fieldwork activities with students. She provided the teachers with a selection of age-appropriate alternatives for when actual fieldwork is not feasible. These included the Suzuki Foundation Superhero Challenge for kindergarteners, the Statistics Canada Census at School project for primary students, and NatureWatch and OpenStreetMap activities for secondary students. Kathryn Laferriere, the Executive Coordinator of the Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG) office located in room 031 of Simard Hall, also spoke to group, inviting them to participate in CAG activities and make use of the various resources available to teachers on the CAG website.
The group visited the Rideau Canal to take water and plant samples that they later analyzed under light microscopes in the physical geography laboratory. Chaput helped the teachers identify zooplankton and phytoplankton and paid special attention to the diverse group of diatoms living in the water. Chaput said “the activity was designed to show the teachers that fieldwork can be simple yet exciting, and that there is a heightened sense of appreciation for the subject when participants collect their own samples out in the field”.
During the remainder of the Institute, which was based out of the new RCGS building located at 50 Sussex Drive, the teachers participated in field tips and learned about geocaching, citizen science, geography-related apps, and how to design fieldwork activities in the school yard. The Can Geo Education team expressed their excitement about the success of the Institute and hope to partner with the Department again in the future.