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These Kamloops women want a school that moves learning outside the classroom

Twila Manson (left) and Krystal Jeffrey are hoping to open up the discussion about a future outdoor school in Kamloops.
November 23, 2017 - 6:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - Learning physics and math by building forts and throwing sticks may not seem conventional, but it’s exactly what two Kamloops women want to see offered in the city.

Twila Manson and Krystal Jeffrey are local moms who want to see an outdoor school in Kamloops like one currently operating in Maple Ridge.

“In an outdoor school... learning outcomes are achieved through experiential learning outdoors, not inside a classroom,” Jeffrey says.

Jeffrey is a pre-school teacher in the city who has wanted to pitch the idea of an outdoor school for the past few years, but has never found the time to completely immerse herself into the project.

Manson recently moved from Maple Ridge to Kamloops with her husband and their two-year-old son. She says one of the most difficult parts of the move was saying goodbye to the opportunity to enroll their son in the outdoor school in that community.

“I really want this for my son, so now I’m trying to get this up and moving so that he has an opportunity to do something like this, because there’s such diversity here and there’s so much they can learn," Manson says.

The Maple Ridge Environmental School started in 2011and it’s a model Manson and Jeffrey are looking at while they discuss plans for an outdoor school in Kamloops.

The women say it’s important the potential school reach as many children as possible, so they are looking for public input before moving forward with a proposal and planning.

They’re holding a public meeting in Aberdeen next week, where they hope to hear from parents who would be open to enrolling their children in an outdoor school. Manson and Jeffrey are looking for concerns, comments and suggestions about what other parents envision when they think of an outdoor school.

“If the community is behind it, it’s hard for the school district or the city or whoever to say no, so we are trying to gather the community support,” Jeffrey says.


Jeffrey and Manson believe resiliency is crucial for children, and having to adapt and learn in all kinds of weather will help strengthen that skill. There are also inherent problems and difficult situations in nature that can help develop a child’s problem-solving skills.

Manson points to a month-long camping trip she took with her husband and son this summer, when her son tried to walk through a prickle bush despite her warning.

“Now he knows what this tree looks like and he knows how to identify it, he knows how to avoid it, and he’s two years old,” says Manson. “I think that sort of thing is really great. He knows which berries he can pick off trees and eat at two years old.”

The women say children at the Maple Ridge Environmental School learn different skills like building fires and using knives, skills that will help them as they grow up.

Both Manson and Jeffrey are aware that an unstructured environment may not sound appealing to every parent, and there could be concerns raised about what the children are really learning if it’s not in a classroom. They say the school doesn’t necessarily have to be fully outdoors and there could be both indoor and outdoor learning.

“Maybe the morning is spent outside and the afternoon is inside, maybe there is classroom learning so kids are gaining those skills of being at a desk, writing on a piece of paper, looking at a blackboard, those things that they’re going to have to use,” Jeffrey says. “What do you envision because personally, me as a parent, I wouldn’t send my kid to a school that was entirely outdoors because I know that moving forward, that’s not necessarily going to be in their best interest.”

It wouldn't be the only outdoor school in the region. South Canoe was recently approved for an outdoor school that would be a hybrid of indoor and outdoor learning.

Manson and Jeffrey say looking at Maple Ridge's model of kindergarten to grade seven is useful and important. They'd even like to see Kamloops build a kindergarten to grade 12 outdoor school and be a national model.

The women say discussions around appropriate grading, what grade levels would be included, and what the school would look like will eventually come after they hear input from parents in the community.

They’re hosting a forum at the West Highlands Community Centre on Nov. 29 beginning at 6 p.m. Parents can drop in, introduce themselves, and discuss their hopes and visions for an outdoor school.

You can go here to see Manson and Jeffrey’s Facebook page.

For more information about the meeting, go here.

— This story was updated at 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 to correct the word "woman" to "women" in the headline,

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