Schools throughout the Halton District School Board have been using snowshoes as an effective and unique teaching tool in and outside of the classroom.
This year, all elementary and secondary schools received snowshoes to teach students about several topics including Indigenous science and technology, Geography, and to engage them in outdoor physical activity in the winter months.
Tanya Woods, Instructional Program Leader (Kindergarten - Grade 8 Healthy Living, Safety, Well Being and Outdoor Experiential Education) with the HDSB, says schools had previously been using a limited number of snowshoes but found the demand for them as a teaching tool was high. Through funding from the Ontario Ministry of Education, additional snowshoes were allocated so every HDSB school would have their own set of snowshoes.
“There has always been a huge demand for them, and given the many pandemic restrictions we faced in physical education and the encouragement for teachers to spend more teaching time outdoors, we felt this would be an engaging resource for schools to have to encourage outdoor physical activity and experiential education,” Woods says.
Oodenawi Public School teacher Ally Williamson has been using the snowshoes and says they have provided deep learning opportunities.
“Many families in our community are new to Canada and we are trying to provide them with opportunities to experience outdoor winter activities,” she says, noting other teachers have helped in providing teaching lessons for students. “We are connecting to Social Studies and Indigenous technology and innovation, making connections to the importance of snowshoes in many different First Nations communities. We have used them in Math to connect our learning about the design of snowshoes and their function. For example, students were challenged to calculate the area of a snowshoe and one of their boots to inquire about the purposeful design of the snowshoe.”
Williamson is excited about what students will learn from the snowshoeing activity.
“I hope my students learn an appreciation for what the First Peoples in Canada had to innovate in order to survive in what is now known as Canada. I also want them to see how technologies have innovated over time and the reasons for that. Lastly, I wanted to introduce them to a fun and exciting new opportunity.”
The students explored a snowshoe structure and design, and received a glimpse of the brilliance of Indigenous science and technology.
Kwansema, a Grade 5 student, says: “The snowshoes don’t necessarily keep you above the snow, your foot still sinks down. It just keeps your boot higher. It was probably very difficult for Indigenous peoples who lived in snowy areas to hunt, trade and survive.”
The use of snowshoes has connections to the HDSB’s 2020-2024 Multi-Year Plan
and overall curriculum, Woods says, including the Mental Health & Well-Being area of focus. The snowshoes can create entry points in exploring Indigenous science, technology and innovation that were and continue to be utilized and created by many Indigenous Nations.
“Staff have the opportunity to engage their students in some inquiry work around the origin and use of snowshoes by Indigenous peoples. There are also many cross curricular connections to be made in language, math, history, geography, and health and physical education. The opportunities to make connections are endless.”