About Heather

Heather has lived on a Canadian Gulf Island for most of her life, but when she was ten or so she lived on a farm in Southern Ontario and that experience is fictionalized in the Patti Stories. However, many of Patti's experiences are a blend of that setting and of raising her own family of three girls in a rural setting on Saltspring Island. These stories draw on the realities of both places and it is this that gives Heather's writing that extra ring of truth.

Heather has been a teacher, a CUSO volunteer in South America, and has sailed the Pacific in a wooden schooner. She has two BA s from the University of Victoria, in English and Psychology and in Creative Writing. She has also published poetry and magazine articles.

She is presently writing an adult novel set on the West Coast.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Outdoor learning and Patti

Children belong outdoors. We know that intuitively and an extensive and ever-growing body of research supports it. Kids who spend time outside everyday are healthier, happier, more creative, less stressed and more alert than those that don't. Several recent studies even show that time in nature or green space helps reduce ADHD symptoms.
But what about teachers who take children outdoors – more alert, calm and creative students are a plus to themselves, other class members and to teachers.

David Suzuki

There is interest these days in educating children outdoors rather than in a classroom. Through a variety of different channels parents and other educators are realizing that nature has and always has had an important role to play in making us completely human. So obvious really, but the industrial model or, still further back, the educational model of the monasteries has been the standard for a long time. Top down education, filling little minds from teacher to little ears, has ignored the complex knowledge that comes from interactions with our oldest teacher, the world of nature. The Patti Stories places us into a rural world that many people in the past experienced in their childhood years even as they plodded through the usual school program. Patti attends school but we see her mostly out on her bike roaming the countryside, playing with friends, riding her horse, building a log cabin and learning so much intangible, unquantifiable knowledge in the process.

I spent the really important years of my own childhood in just such a natural setting beside a bay on the BC coast. My parents were too preoccupied to think of sending me to scouts and summer camps and so I was free to wander the shores and forests, to venture out onto the bay on my handbuilt rafts, canoes and sailboats. To this day I feel competent at whatever I dare to venture, not because I know everything but because in my childhood I learned to be self confident as part of the natural world and a self directed learner. Patti is all about competence and confidence and perhaps a reader might think she is too good to be true, but a careful reading will show how she struggles but learns important life lessons. Life is not easy or simple but it is the important thing, and humans have a long, long history of learning and adapting to the greater world given half a chance.

Not everyone has nature at their doorstep as has Patti, but with luck they have parents who can talk things over just as Patti's parents do and these books do present a whole series of topics that flow from Patti's life-learning experiences ( see the sidebar direction to a separate page for discussion). We all can walk the woods, ride the trails, fight bullies, train chicks and horses with Patti and get to discuss and make her learning part of us, no matter what our age.

Our relationship with nature is probably the most important mind shift we need to make if the earth is is to survive with us on it. Divorced from it, whether through old religious or newer scientific paradigms, we know our children may fail in the biggest exam of all, but reacquainted with the natural world they might stand a chance. Heather writes from her own experience as a child and her whole adult life spent close to the big world that still exists beyond our self-involved human one.

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