Experience from expeditions enables and empowers students, according to educators who believe the classroom outside is just as important as the one inside.
School District 47’s Leadership Ecology Adventure Program (LEAP) has followed that framework for the last 10 years.
On Thursday, July 7, 20 students from around BC, including two from Powell River, embarked on the annual outdoor summer adventure course that instills in participants a better understanding of themselves, leadership skills and knowledge of environmental issues.
Students were divided into two groups; 10 went sailing while the others ventured out on a canoeing trip.
“Our curriculum prepares kids for a journey,” said Ryan Barfoot, coordinator for outdoor and ecological learning with the school district. “The journey itself is modelled after one of the oldest curricula of humanity, which is the traditional right of passage.”
The adventure began at the school district’s Outdoor Learning Centre; each student pays $675 for the weeklong experience.
Noemi Mazurek, 15, a student heading into grade 11 at Brooks Secondary School in September, was part of the group of students that set sail on the Maryke Violet for a week on the Salish Sea.
“I’ve never been sailing and I want to learn,” said Mazurek, who has been involved with youth leadership programs previously and said she enjoys meeting new people and making new friends.
“First we had three days where we did team building through activities and games and got to know each other,” she said. “Then we prepared for our journey. We’re going for five days and then we’ll come back for a day, reunite and talk about our experience.”
According to Barfoot, while time is set aside for introspection, once students begin their expeditions a great deal of responsibility must be shouldered by each of them.
“It’s based on action leadership,” he said. “Each kid gets a chance to be a leader for a day and they have to make sure the health and wellness of the group is met, all logistics are covered and everyone gets from point A to point B in a safe and effective way.”
For Mackenzie Guild, 15, also aboard the Maryke Violet, LEAP is a journey of self-discovery.
“It’s a great way to find yourself,” said Guild, who will start grade 10 at Brooks after a summer break. “You’re on a journey with a bunch of peers. It’s a great way to make new friends. It’s all for the experience.”
It is also about getting away from it all, according to Guild. “I’m hoping for disconnect,” he said. “I’m hoping to get away from technology for a week and realize that it’s not everything. It’s great to be outdoors.”
The only technology available to students onboard is the latest outdoor gear. They have pens and paper, but no cell phones or laptops. “I’ll be able to handle it, for sure,” said Guild.
The purpose of LEAP, according to Barfoot, is to help students prepare for their futures.
“I have seen more and more kids involved because they see, they recognize and they’re hearing from potential employers that these skills are really, really valuable,” said Barfoot. “You need to understand the language of leadership, the language of sustainability and the dynamics.”
For more information on the LEAP program, go to outdoors.sd47.bc.ca.