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Elementary students attending Elders Outdoor Education Camp

Primary and intermediate students from Van Bien and Westwood elementary schools are getting ready to participate in a field trip that will connect them with knowledge-holders and the wonders of nature.

The School District 57 students – more than 400 in total – will be heading to Camp Hughes for the Elders Outdoor Education Camp. Van Bien will have 208 kids at Camp Hughes on Thursday, May 16, while 202 Westwood students will take their turn on Friday, May 17. Camp Hughes is a Scouts Canada property located off Blackwater Road at West Lake. While there, students will have the opportunity to interact with and learn from First Nations elders.

“We will be providing a common, immersive experience for the students, where they will be building relationships with elders in the district,” said Vanessa Elton, environmental education and first people’s principles of learning resource teacher .

“This event supports the School District 57 Strategic Plan goals to increase participation and experiences of land-based learning for all students and to increase awareness and commitment of environmental sustainability with the use of traditional environmental knowledge for all students.”

Local elders who will share their wisdom and experiences with the students include College of New Caledonia instructor Bruce Allan, Brenda Nome, Doris Prince and Theresa Nelson. Some of the others participating are Lynn Westcott, an entomologist from Smithers, and D.P. Todd teacher Ian Leitch and his outdoor education students. Staff from School District 57’s Aboriginal Education and Learning Innovations departments will also be on site, as will the teacher of each Van Bien and Westwood class. Educational assistants, community school coordinators, parents and community members have all committed time to the venture as well.

Activities are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. each day. Students will be back on their buses for the trip home by 1:45 p.m.

Planned activities include: Lahal, a traditional game of First Nations people; wide games (games that cover a wide area, like capture the flag); plant and insect studies; survival skills; bannock making; an introduction to drums and rattles; and fireside time.

Elton is borrowing the concept of the Outdoor Elders Education Camp from Kairyn Russell-Janecke, principal of McBride Centennial Elementary School. Russell-Janecke started a similar program six years ago at Beaver Creek Lodge and Cabins. Elton and Russell-Janecke met each other last fall.

“She shared with me (the model for) her camp that she does for her whole school and I was inspired,” Elton said.

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