Royal Oak Community School is bringing down the walls of its classrooms this week.
For one week, students have left the indoors behind and are participating in educational activities outdoors.
It’s part of the school’s four-day “Week Without Walls” program, in which students from junior kindergarten to Grade 3 are taking part.
“It’s our version of an educational, experiential camp that utilizes some of the best community partners we have to enrich learning outside of the classroom walls,” said Julia Murray, Royal Oak’s head of school.
This year’s week started May 29 and will end June 1. Each activity depends on the theme of the day. Monday was focused on food and community, Tuesday on science, Wednesday on arts and Thursday on animals.
Meanwhile, kids in grades 4 to 8 are at Camp Wahanowin for their own end-of-year celebration.
The school introduced Week Without Walls three years ago, Murray said, to “provide some of the same experiences that sleepaway camp would bring, but for children who are too young to be away from home.”
In addition, Royal Oak tries to teach outside the classroom as much as possible throughout the year, said Murray.
“Outdoor education is a really big part of our philosophy,” she said.
Some of the outdoor classroom activities relate to what kids have been learning all semester, like the kindergarten and grades 1 and 2 students, who have been learning about animals and habitats.
Other activities students took part in this week include mad science shows, a cooking class, hanging out Reptile Kingdom, trying out pottery, having ice cream at Cows and going to Safari Niagara.
Much like the Week Without Walls, kids at Camp Wahanowin will take the classroom outside and get some hands-on experience related to what they’ve been studying.
“Classes are doing astronomy, so we do stargazing there,” said Murray.
They’ll also get to go canoeing, hiking and make campfires.
A bake sale on May 13 raised $2,000 to help send some Royal Oak students to Camp Wahanowin
Murray explained that about 40 per cent of students at Royal Oak are on financial assistance, so fundraising opportunities like the bake sale help give these students extra opportunities — like going to camp.
Sending kids to camp helped the school realize it wanted to offer the same opportunity to its younger students — but from the comfort of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Murray said its Week Without Walls and the camping trip is Royal Oak’s way of successfully setting kids up for the summer.
“For July and August, they’re not with us. But, they will be potentially heading up to their first summer camp or heading out on the water,” she said.
“It’s our way of supporting the development of those skills for kids before we kind of lose them for the summer,” she added.