The Rotary Club of Sooke is committed to supporting youth literacy, and every year donate $2,500 to the Sooke School District for new books.
This year, $500 of the donation went towards supporting the Nature Kindergarten program at Saseenos Elementary School.
The Nature K program allows kindergarten students to explore outside for four hours a day, five days a week and learn about their surroundings.
“Studies have shown that being outdoors relieves anxiety and helps the kids focus more,” said Margot Swinburnson, a member of the Rotary club and school trustee.
Erin Wood, teacher of Nature K, says the program is a more holistic approach to learning and the all the children and parents involved are very enthusiastic about it.
“I think it just sets the kids up for success,” she said. “It encourages them to ask questions, make observations, think critically and be more aware of the world around them.”
Ruchi McArthur, principal at Saseenos, says the kids benefit from being able to actually touch, smell and see the things they are learning about.
“Our goal is to give the children a deeper understanding of the Aboriginal ways of knowing and a connection with nature, and having them get outdoors is a great way to implement that,” McArthur said.
The T’Souke Nation granted the children permission to use their land for the classes, and Sherry Thomas, an educational assistant with the program said the kids thank the nation each day after class.
The program follows the provincial curriculum the same as any other kindergarten class, but gives them a more hands-on opportunity to learn.
“Just being out on the land is so significant, especially with where we live,” said Wood. “It’s really amazing to be part of the revival of a much more authentic and in some ways more meaningful way of learning about the world as a young person.”
Swinburnson said the money from the donation will go towards buying age specific books about nature for the students.
“There’s nothing like getting outdoors and surrounding yourself with nature,” she said. “And we want to do anything we can to enhance literacy in the community and engage youth in learning, which I think society as a whole will gain from.”
Last year, the Rotary donated $500 to John Muir school’s gardening program, and with the donation the program was able to purchase multiple books revolving around what you might find in the garden.
“We are very excited about Nature K and the relationship between the Rotary Club and the Sooke School District,” said Swinburnson.