A selection process for students who will participate in the 11th year of School District 47’s Leadership Ecology Adventure Program (LEAP) is now underway.
According to school district coordinator for outdoor and ecological learning Ryan Barfoot, only 24 students will be chosen, and there are a few spots left. Half of the participants will partake in a canoeing trip while the others embark on sailing voyage.
Barfoot said students will be instilled with experiences and tools to enable a better understanding of themselves and others, and increase their leadership skills and environmental awareness. The result is different for every student, from small realizations to profound leaps, he added.
“You see glimmers of it throughout the program and you see the lightbulbs going off,” said Barfoot. “You see mini epiphanies along the way that just solidify why we do this work and why we’ve committed so much of our lives to this way of teaching, learning and sharing.”
During the one-week program each student is scheduled to lead one day of the journey in a comfortable learning environment where it is okay to make mistakes, said Barfoot.
Program alumnus Alyssa Stapleton said she came away from her LEAP experience with a comprehensive discovery of her life’s passion and mission. Currently completing a bachelor of arts in geography and environmental studies and a diploma in the natural restoration of systems at University of Victoria, Stapleton will return to LEAP this year as an instructor.
Stapleton said outdoor, education-based experiences lead to developing a stronger sense of community and people become more open to caring about their surroundings, their place within it and with one another.
“We need to foster these collaborative mindsets that are community-oriented instead of very acutely secular and selfish mindsets that our society perpetuates,” said Stapleton.
According to Barfoot, the type of action leadership and awareness of the world people leave the program with is becoming more important in the 21st century, where opposing sides are uncompromising in their respective positions.
The nature of LEAP is learning within a small community of young people where compromise is everything, he said.
“When you’re working in those small groups you need to make amends with your neighbour, you need to get along, you need to work toward compromising and you need to bring all sides together,” he said. “There’s no better learning environment than to practice something in a program like this.”
Stapleton said the natural world has an essential and inherent value that too few people recognize.
“On a basic level, our society and people in general want to find people and community, and outdoor pursuit facilitates that in a way that’s unparalleled,” she said. “Being in the natural world and connecting with the natural environment, I personally don’t believe there’s any stronger way to facilitate community awareness and experience.”