OTTAWA -- Keeping students engaged while they're learning online is no easy task, but one Ottawa elementary school teacher has created a very cool classroom.

Patrick Revie teaches grades 1-8 at École élémentaire catholique George-Étienne-Cartier in Ottawa’s French Catholic school board. He turned the front lawn of his Alta Vista neighbourhood home into an online classroom by teaching from inside a snow fort.

“I was just sort of thinking of different ways of trying to engage my students,” says Revie. He built a snow fort with his own kids and thought his students would enjoy it too.

“It kind of occurred to me, maybe I can bring them with me and I decided to teach outside.”

So, he and his laptop headed outside. 

“I even had a kid ask, ‘is that a background’; and I said ‘no, no, I’m actually outside. You can see my breath and I’m in a snowsuit.” 

It’s all in an effort to keep students interested, as they learn in front of a screen at home, says Revie. 

“It’s been a challenge. I mean, everybody is going through it; everyone knows what it’s like. It’s been hard for teachers to reinvent ourselves, it’s hard for parents, it’s hard for students. We’re all kind of in the same boat.” 

The new virtual classroom has proven popular.

“I thought it was extremely fun,” says Grade 3 student Cléo Staz. Her dad, Mark Staz, thinks it’s a great initiative. 

“It’s been difficult for us to provide some variety in their lives and into their day so, for the teacher to think of something creative like that, it was great to see,” he said.

The snow fort classroom has been a good visual aid when teaching students about cybersecurity too, says Revie. 

“I compared the fort, and the walls of snow and ice, to the firewalls that we use to protect the computer,” he said.

And those walls don’t prevent his internet from freezing either. 

“I got actually better reception in the fort than I did in the basement.”

Revie has a low-tech solution to staying warm, too: a hot water bottle and tucked it into his jacket.

This is Revie's second week teaching outside and he plans to have more lessons in the snow fort classroom. 

“I’m really hoping we get another really big snowfall, and I can add to the snow fort and make it even bigger.”