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MacSkimming Programs

MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre is a 425 acre outdoor classroom on the east side of the City of Ottawa. The primary focus of this Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) educational facility is to provide active inquiry based learning opportunities and curriculum-based experiences to elementary and secondary students, to explore, appreciate and learn about the Ontario Curriculum in a beautiful natural biodiverse setting.


A large portion of MacSkimming Centre is designated by Environment & Climate Change Canada as the Beckett’s Creek Migratory Bird Sanctuary. 

The Centre is heavily used by school classes, overnight and weekend groups. Therefore, the Centre is not open to the public to access and hike.

The Centre was established in 1967 and is named after William MacSkimming, who was the Director of Education in 1966 with the Ottawa Board of Education.


To book a program at the MacSkimming Centre, please follow these steps:


  1. Email (outdooredcentres@ocdsb.ca) for available dates, Please state the following in your message:

  • School:

  • Preferred Outdoor Education Centre (Bill Mason or MacSkimming)

  • Grade:

  • Number of classes:

  • Number of students per class:

  • Preferred educational program:

  • Preferred season:


  1. Download, print and complete the Program Booking Request Form, once a date has been agreed upon.  

  2. Email the completed form to outdooredcentres@ocdsb.ca


Once your form is received, your tentative booking has been made. The booking will be secured once we have received your 25% non refundable deposit. Please be sure to carefully read the important notes on the Booking Request Form. ie Cancellation Policy.


Programs will only be rescheduled or cancelled if there are extreme weather conditions, alerts or school buses are not running!


Attention OCDSB grade 3 and 7 classes- please see on the program list which Grade 3 and 7 programs are part of the “Every Student Attends” program (ESA). These field trip programs are at no cost to the OCDSB students, to attend (1 free program per class to one Centre per school year).


Available Programs at the MacSkimming  Outdoor Education Centre (By grade):


Kindergarten Program:

Forest Explore:

This full day outdoor program provides students with a great nature-based learning opportunity, to go outside to play and focus on exploring nature. Students will be immersed in the forest by exploring, playing and discovering the amazing things that live there. This outside program is offered from September to November and April to June.


Grade 1 Program:

Characteristics and Needs of Living Things:

During this full day program, students will have an opportunity to discover some amazing living things that live in the various ecosystems at MacSkimming Centre. Play and explore-based activities will focus on what living things need to survive, why these living things are important and how they manage to survive the seasons. This program is available for all seasons but activities will be based around the season attending.


Grade 2 Program:

Growth and Changes in Animals:

During this full day outdoor program, the students will gain further understanding of local animals by investigating different habitats, actively exploring different animals and playing activities based around their behaviour and life cycles . This active program is available all seasons but activities and explore topics will vary with the seasons.


Grade 3 Program:

Growth and Changes in Plants and Soils in the Environment (Every Student Attends):

In this full day program, students explore and discover the world of plants and soils. Students will dig down to investigate soil horizons, explore decomposers and discuss the importance of soil as an ecosystem. In the second part of the day, students will focus on local plant biodiversity and how they grow and adapt. This program is recommended between September to November (weather permitting) and May to June.


Grade 3 Program:

Life in Early Canada (Culture and History)(Every Student Attends):

During this full-day program,  students will have a chance to discover what life would have been like during the early 1900s. Students will have an opportunity to discuss and compare the lives of Indigenous communities, to that of the European settlers during the early 1900s. Students will visit a one-room schoolhouse, build a log-cabin, make their own wooden toy and use some antique tools, in this hands-on discovery of life long ago. In early Spring, a tour of the sugar bush is combined with the program. This program is available all seasons.

Grade 4 Program:

Habitats and Communities:

This nature-based full day program is divided into two different opportunities: the first half of the day includes actively exploring different habitats and communities around 425 acres of MacSkimming Centre. Second half is a prey/predator simulation in a 5 acre playing area, focusing hands-on on food chains and habitat requirements. This extremely active program is available all seasons but activities and explore topics will vary with the seasons. If snow conditions permit, part of the program will be on snowshoes.


Grade 5 Program:

Outdoor Skills:

Students will learn and practice the basics of emergency shelter building and navigation with the use of maps. Students will problem-solve in small groups in order to find their way around the 425 acre classroom, knot-tying and to build an emergency shelter. This program is available all seasons and if snow conditions permit, part of the program will be on snowshoes.


Grade 5 Program:

First Contact (Culture and History):

In this active program, students will be introduced to ways in which European and Indigenous communities influenced each other’s ways of life. Students will have the opportunity to further explore and increase their understanding of the lifestyle of the Algonkin or Algonquin people. An interactive fur trade simulation activity is part of this program and focuses particularly on the Indigneous People's role in Canadian history. Other activities include a guided hike (On snowshoes,conditions permitting). This program is available all seasons but is recommended for the winter.


Grade 6 Program:

Biodiversity and Classification:

This full day program includes two half day activities: "Classify Me" and exploring for biodiversity. 

Classify Me is an active tree identification activity in which students make their way along the trails (with maps) looking for specially marked coniferous trees. Once they find the required evergreen trees, it is their job to use a dichotomous key to identify them. 

Second half of the day, students focus on exploring the Centre's 425 acre classroom and inquiring about biodiversity, interrelationships, vertebrates vs. invertebrates and invasive species. This program is available all seasons but activities and explore topics will vary with the seasons. If snow conditions permit, part of the program will be on snowshoes.


Grade 6 Program:

Outdoor Skills:

Students will learn and practice the basics of emergency shelter building and navigation with the use of maps. Students will problem-solve in small groups in order to find their way around the 425 acre classroom, knot-tying and to build an emergency shelter. This hands-on program is available all seasons and if snow conditions permit, part of the program will be on snowshoes.


Grade 7 Program: 

Interactions within Ecosystems (Every Student Attends):

This nature-based full day program is divided into two different opportunities: the first half includes actively exploring the different ecosystems within the 425 acres of MacSkimming Centre. Second half is a prey/predator simulation in a 5 acre playing area, focusing hands-on on consumer levels, food webs and population requirements. This extremely active program is available all seasons but activities and explore topics will vary with the seasons. If snow conditions permit, part of the program will be on snowshoes.


Grade 7 Program:

The Fur Trade:

This trading simulation actively takes place along the trails and inside forests. Students play the role of over-wintering voyageurs newly hired by the Northwest Company in the early 1800s. Students reenact history by trading with Indigenous communities for furs in order to purchase supplies at Fort William for the long journey home to Montreal. 

Part of the day will include learning about the life of a voyageur as well as engaging in a hike around the 425 acre classroom, focussing on hands-on exploration and discussions on how Indigenous people used surrounding forest for medicine and food (On snowshoes when conditions permitting). This program is available all seasons but is highly recommended for the winter.


Grade 7 Program: 

Outdoor Skills:

Students are introduced to how to use a map and compass effectively. With these skills, students will navigate the trails of this 425 acre classroom.

In the second half of the day, students will enhance their outdoor skills by building and safely managing a fire. If snow conditions permit, part of the program will be on snowshoes.This program is available all seasons but is highly recommended for the fall or winter.


Grade 7 Program: 

Cross-country Skiing: 

This full day program of cross-country skiing starts with a basic introduction to classic style cross-country skiing, with active games in the morning. The afternoon will be spent skiing along the groomed trails throughout the Centre. All ski equipment is provided. This program is available in January, February and March (conditions permitting).  We can only accommodate 1 group per day.


Grade 7 Program: 

Teambuilding:

Through a progressicve series of team building challenges, students experience and assess key interpersonal skills such as trust, cooperation, initiative and communication. This full day program is designed to develop self confidence, self esteem, group skills and friendships. 

Special ratio; 1 Centre instructor for up to 15 students.

This program is only available September to mid November and May to June (Weather and conditions permitting).


Grade 8 Program: 

Outdoor Skills:

Students are introduced to how to use a map and compass effectively. With these skills, students will navigate the trails of this 425 acre classroom.

In the second half of the day, students will enhance their outdoor skills by building and safely managing a fire. If snow conditions permit, part of the program will be on snowshoes.This program is available all seasons but is highly recommended for the fall or winter.


Grade 8 Program:

Cross-country Skiing:

This full day program of cross-country skiing starts with a basic introduction to classic style cross-country skiing, with active games in the morning. The afternoon will be spent skiing along the groomed trails throughout the Centre. All ski equipment is provided. This program is available in January, February and March (conditions permitting). We can only accommodate 1 group per day.


Grade 8 Program:

Arts in the Outdoors:

This full day active program is packed with making connections with nature through hands-on and experiential learning. Make links to the visual arts, drama, as well as collaboration, communication, problem solving skills, and environmental awareness.  What better way of learning the arts than through CREATING in NATURE! 

This outside program is offered from September to November and April to June.


Grade 8 Program: 

Teambuilding:

Through a progressive series of team building challenges, students experience and assess key interpersonal skills such as trust, cooperation, initiative and communication. This full day program is designed to develop self confidence, creating a positive learning environment, group skills, innovation and friendships. 

Special ratio; 1 Centre instructor for up to 15 students.

This program is only available September to mid November and May to June (Weather and conditions permitting).


Grade 9 Program:

Scientific Inquiry within an Ecosystem:

This full day program is divided into two learning opportunities, an inquiry-based explore and an active simulation based on the food chain. The forest explore is designed to allow students to experience through hands-on inquiry about the biodiversity within our local forests. 

The simulation provides students with the opportunity to further understand bioaccumulation, biomass, populations and how humans affect local ecosystems. This extremely active program is available all seasons but activities and explore topics will vary with the seasons. If snow conditions permit, part of the program will be on snowshoes.


Grade 9 to 12 Program:

Cross-country Skiing (Great for Outdoor Education classes!):

This full day program of cross-country skiing starts with a basic introduction to classic style cross-country skiing, with active games in the morning. The afternoon will be spent skiing along the groomed trails throughout the Centre. All ski equipment is provided. This program is available in January, February and March (conditions permitting).  We can only accommodate 1 group per day.


Grade 9 to 12 Program:

Snowshoeing and Cross-country Skiing:

This popular full day program provides students with the opportunity to get out and be active in winter. Half of the day will be cross-country skiing on the groomed trails and the other half will be snowshoeing, exploring winter tracks and feeding black-capped chickadees. This program is available in January, February and March (conditions permitting).


Grade 9 to 12 Program: 

Teambuilding:

Through a progressive series of team building challenges, students experience and assess key interpersonal skills such as trust, cooperation, initiative and communication. This full day program is designed to develop self confidence, creating a positive learning environment, group skills and friendships. 

Special ratio; 1 Centre instructor for up to 15 students.

This program is only available September to mid November and May to June (Weather and conditions permitting).


Grade 9 to 12 Program: 

Navigation Skills (Great for Outdoor Education classes!):

Students are introduced to how to use a map, compass and GPS effectively. With these skills, students will navigate the trails of this 425 acre classroom.

If snow conditions permit, part of the program will be on snowshoes.

This program is available for all seasons.


Grade 6 to 12 Program:

Guided Night Hike: 

Is your class staying overnight at MacSkimming Centre? Why not explore the forest at night! In this 2 hour guided hike, the Centre’s instructor will lead your class (30 students maximum) through the 425 acre classroom, to study the science of the dark, call barred owls and explore the night sky and use a telescope if weather permits.

This program is available for fall, winter & spring.

Nature-Based Learning Program (Forest School):
Grades K-6:

This active outdoor learning opportunity involves inquiry-based education which uses the unique natural setting of the Centres, to teach numerous curriculum connections by exploring, learning by doing and child-led freeplay.
This place-based educational program consists of 4 full day individual weekly visits to MacSkimming or Bill Mason Centre (Maximum 2 classes per day).  
Weekly visits to the Centres will be determined during registration. 
Additional Centres’ visits and in-school sessions can be added to the program, for the Centre educators to professionally support outdoor play and learning in a local green space or in the schoolyard. 
This unique outdoor opportunity has limited dates available.  Early registration may be required. 


Contact Us

Program Fees
OCDSB Classes
Junior and Senior Kindergarten: $200 per class of up to 30 students per day ($205 for the 2020-2021 School Year).

Grades# 1, 2, 3: $180 per class of up to 25 students per day ($190 for the 2020-2021 School Year).

Grades# 4+: $200 per class of up to 30 students per day ($205 for the 2020-2021 School Year)

*Team building special ratio program rates: $180 per group of up to 15 students per day

Non-OCDSB Classes

Grades JK-12: $255 per class of up to 30 students per day

*Team building special ratio program rates: $255 per group of up to 15 students per day

Overnight Rates (OCDSB and non-OCDSB Classes)
$200 per Field Centre per night. (Starting 2020-2021 School Year,$250 per night)

Please see Facilities and Rentals page for Field Centre descriptions and, contact our office to discuss which overnight accommodations are best for your group.

The "Every Student Attends" program (ESA) entitles each OCDSB Grade 3 and 7 class to one "free field trip" per year to either Bill Mason or MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre.

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