Place and Nature-Based Experiential Learning - Summer 2023

Method of delivery:
Applications open:
November 1, 2022
Applications close:
March 17, 2023
Next start date:
Summer 2023

This Graduate Diploma in Advanced Professional Studies in Education (GDE) was developed in partnership with School District 71, Comox Valley.

We respectfully acknowledge that this program is located on the Unceded Traditional Territory of the K’ómoks First Nation, the traditional keepers of this land.

Program Overview

Designed For

This Graduate Diploma in Advanced Professional Studies in Education (GDE) is for K-12 educators seeking to weave place and nature-based experiential learning opportunities into their practice. The focus will be on deepening ecological knowledge, weaving together holistic and Indigenous pedagogies and fostering social-emotional well-being.

Program Format

  • Two-year, 30 unit program
  • Combination of coursework and field studies (practitioner inquiry)
  • In-person learning, (five Friday evenings, 4:30-8:30pm; and Saturdays 9:00am-3:00pm) per semester
  • Includes a one-week Summer Institute each August
  • No classes in July, during the winter break or ministry-designated spring break

Program Design

Themes of Study

  • Examine teacher values, beliefs and experiences relating to place and nature-based learning and how these may influence educational decisions and interactions
  • Explore theories and principles of place and nature-based experiential learning and its place within educational change
  • Learn from Indigenous worldviews and perspectives (including First Peoples Principles of Learning) and how these can inform relationship with place and practice
  • Critically examine current directions in BC Education through the perspective of place and nature-based experiential learning and explore implications for practice
  • Integrate place and nature-based experiential learning across subject areas in the context of individual and collective practice guided by the BC Curriculum
  • Explore diverse land and place-based teaching and learning environments, including garden-based learning
  • Engage in teacher inquiry and reflective practice stemming from encounters with place and relationships with the natural world


Program capacities provide a reflective focus for documenting and self-assessing learning.  At frequent intervals throughout the program, participants and their mentors refer to the capacities to assess progress, to set new goals and to create direction for further learning in field studies.  At the end of the program, each participant’s comprehensive portfolio includes a synthesis of learning and self-assessment of growth in these capacities, supported by evidence of learning.  This program provides opportunities to develop these capacities:

  • Develop a disposition of inquiry and critical reflection to understand and develop your practice
  • Create a repertoire of hands-on, experiential practices to foster relationships with nature, place and community.  This includes integrating and applying Indigenous teachings, which are foundational to this type of learning
  • Explore, Generate and Implement teaching and assessment practices to support the learning of diverse students in the context of the natural world
  • Engage in practices rooted in nature and place and encourage risk-taking both for yourself and your students
  • Promote and Sustain ethical relationships with the natural world and integrate them into your practice and across professional communities
  • Lead amidst the opportunities and challenges brought about by the current ecological crisis and develop the skills to be active in community change

Schedule & Courses

Classes run in the Summer, Fall and Spring terms of the academic year during the 2-year program. They will be scheduled on Friday evening and most of the day on Saturday every 2-3 weeks during term.

Year 1

Summer 2023 (Late April- August* (No classes scheduled in July))

  • Foundations of Teacher Inquiry
  • Place and Nature-based Education*

Fall 2023 (September-December)

  • Deepening Practice in Place and Nature-based Learning
  • Field Studies (Practitioner Inquiry)

Spring 2024 (January-April)

  • Holistic Approaches to Teaching and Learning
  • Field Studies (Practitioner Inquiry)

*You also attend a one-week in-person Summer Institute each year (August 14-18, 2023 & August 2024). No classes are scheduled in July.

Year 2

Summer 2024 (Late April- August* (No classes scheduled in July))

  • Developing Learning Communities
  • Field Studies (Practitioner Inquiry)

Fall 2024 (September-December)

  • Integrating Assessment, Planning and Practice
  • Field Studies (Practitioner Inquiry)

Spring 2025 (January-April)

  • Relationships for Learning
  • Reflections on Teaching and Learning

*You also attend a one-week in-person Summer Institute each year (August 14-18, 2023 & August 2024). No classes are scheduled in July.

Program Collaborators

Faculty Members

District Partners

  • Vivian Collyer, Director of Instruction of SD71

Future Pathways

Where can this program take you? The world is changing rapidly and so is the full range of career and academic opportunities that await. 

TQS Upgrades

Completion of the diploma allows educators to move from TQS category 4 to 5 or from category 5 to 5+.

Further Studies

Use the credits you've earned completing your GDE program towards earning a Master of Education in Educational Practice (MEd EP). Learn more about the one-year MEd EP program.

Learn more about thIs Program

Curious to know more about the program?

Upcoming Information Sessions