It sounds like the start of a movie: a class of Grade 2 and 3 kids get stuck in a science museum overnight and antics ensue. Maybe there’s a mystery they have to solve.
Well, it wasn’t a movie, but there was certainly a ton of exploration and interactive learning when a group of Campbell River students from Cedar Elementary spent the night at Science World in Vancouver recently.
“The trip was amazing,” says Stephanie Stromquist, the teacher who entered the class in the contest and oversaw the science curriculum for the students taking part – and then drove the Carihi forestry bus for the trip itself. “I don’t think they really understood how big an experience it was going to be until we were actually doing it.”
Many of the students had never been on a ferry, let alone on an overnight trip to the Lower Mainland, so when they found out they’d won a sleepover at Science World in Vancouver, they were justifiably excited.
It all came about when Stromquist got an email early on in the school year about the BC Green Games – a Science World initiative that celebrates environmental conservation and promotes environmental education in the classroom.
She enrolled the class, “and we just focused on being green all year and learning about recycling and the importance of turning off lights and we went to the dam and the Return-It depot, did some things in the community, I put it together into a video and had them speak to what they were learning, submitted it – and we won,” Stromquist says, simply, as if it was no big deal.
She’d already planned on doing some “environmental issues” type pieces within their curriculum this year, but the contest, she says, “really brought it into focus in terms of where we wanted to go with it.”
Part of that was because by registering for the BC Green Games early on in the call for applications, Stromquist’s class was also entered in the Early Bird Prize draw and won that, too. That prize was an educational program called “Planet Protectors,” which they integrated into their curriculum for the year.
Through the Planet Protectors program, they were able to bring in biologist Georgie Harrison from North Island College as a guest speaker to talk about plastic in the ocean, Luisa Richardson from Comox Strathcona Waste Management came in to talk about recycling and composting and they brought a compost bin into the classroom to use and help learn about food waste – the whole science curriculum for the year was basically about treating the planet better.
But the Science World trip itself was obviously the highlight of the experience.
And best of all, in some ways, is that it was entirely free.
“We won the sleepover, but none of the travel was paid for,” Stromquist says. So they thought they were going to have to do some fundraising until Return-It told them they’d also won a travel bursary thanks to their work learning about and practicing recycling during the year.
So what’s it like spending the night in a place like Science World with a class full of Grade 2/3 kids?
“Well, getting them all to go to sleep was a struggle, for sure,” Stromquist says with a chuckle, “but they were great. They got to go through all the exhibits in their pyjamas and explore and it was just amazing to see them outside the school environment and learning and enjoying themselves while experiencing something they may never have otherwise gotten the chance to experience.”
The best part of the whole experience, however, Stromquist says, is that, “it shows them that they can have success when they work towards something. I definitely prepped them that they might not win, so they wouldn’t be disappointed if that happened, but for them to be able to see that ‘we did this all year and actually got this out of it’ is huge. Being able to see their learning turn into success for them, I think, was really important.”