Last week, a group of Grade 6 and 7 Bowen students spent a snowy winter night camping on Hollyburn Mountain, snowshoeing, conducting avalanche search and rescue training and building snow shelters. It’s all part of the new Bowen Island Community School’s outside45 program that aims to build leadership and environmental and community involvement. Throughout the year, students have undertaken hikes, camped at Garibaldi and Whistler, gone through ropes course training and even had an urban adventure exploring the history and culture of downtown Vancouver.
“We want to use the year to raise students’ awareness through an inquiry based approach that moves away from the teacher-fronted model of learning,” explains Scott Slater, BICS vice-principal and leader of the program. “In addition to learning all the usual academic subjects, we`re hoping that by experiencing a range of outdoor activities, we’ll ignite a lifelong interest in responsible involvement in the outdoors and an ethic of care for the environment.” It helps that a large part of the program has the close involvement of parents who can offer a wide range of skills; a recent visit to a beaver dam and lodge included two professional biologists.
Outside45s schedule still allows students to be involved in extracurricular school activities, such as sports and music programs. This involvement means that the rest of the student body is well aware of the curriculum of the 24-strong outside45 class. It’s helped to firmly establish the popularity of the program, even before its first year is complete. “Last year, there were many qualified candidates for the program but it was limited to 24 places,” explains Jennifer Pardee, BICS’ principal. “We’ve found the program’s environmental focus resonates with both students and parents and has justified the decision to consider expanding the number of places this September.”
Spencer, one student in the program, is already looking forward to the next adventure, a kayaking/camping trip later in the year. He said,“It makes you pretty excited about going to school each day. And what you’re learning is worth knowing forever.”
special to the Undercurrent