May 13, 2014:
Senior high students at Peace Wapiti Public School Division’s most northern school will be enjoying far more of the great outdoors this spring thanks to generous donations from Arc Resources, Devon Canada, Encana Corporation, and the Savanna Fire Department.
Outdoor Education was first introduced as a Career and Technology Studies (CTS) option for Grades 10-12 students at Savanna School last year on limited resources. The program is steadily growing in popularity with three quarters of the school’s senior high population now participating in the program.
“The goal for Outdoor Education has always been to instill an interest in expeditions and the great outdoors in a safe environment. When I have students requesting to sign out equipment so they can take their family out and show them what they’ve learned, I feel like we’re really making a difference,” says Chris Young, lead teacher for the program at Savanna School.
“We initially got it off the ground by renting and borrowing equipment to test it and see what the response would be. The kids responded with overwhelming excitement. This year we have a more solidified program thanks to the addition of high-end equipment that will last for years,” adds Mr. Young.
“Thanks to donations over the past two years, 15 of our students are now equipped with their own expedition rucksacks, Arctic sleeping bags, closed-cell winter sleeping mats, Arctic tents and expedition snowshoes. This year, we were able to add paddles, canoes, personal flotation devices, and additional safety equipment such as a throw bag containing whistles and rope for rescue operations,” adds Mr. Young.
Outdoor Education is an all-season program focusing on hands-on learning while challenging students to develop skills in navigation, trekking, wilderness survival and leadership. The program covers outdoor learning modules provided by Alberta Education and aims to foster an appreciation for what our land has to offer.
“When the kids are building shelters, they are really building shelters – it’s not a game,” says Mr. Young. “Their ability to survive an overnight camping trip in -20 degree Celsius weather last fall without the support of nearby cabins or washroom facilities really speaks to the quality of this program. The students were able to apply the learning and use their skills. That type of learning really awakens the kids because they are actually accomplishing real-life applications from classroom learning.”
Grade 11 student Rylan Sauder really likes being trusted to do real things. “We don’t talk about going on an expedition, we do it.”
Grade 10 student Mackenzie Porrill says, “I like how Mr. Young always makes sure that we don’t just learn what we have to; he lets us have fun with what we are learning and go beyond it. I love the quality of the equipment, and that we get to use it.”
In the coming weeks, students will be practicing paddling and mock canoe rescues in the school’s water-filled dugout in preparation a three-day camping trip down the Peace River.
Photo caption: Outdoor Education is an all-season program focusing on hands-on learning while challenging students to develop skills in navigation, trekking, wilderness survival and leadership.