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Journey to the land of the polar bear

A local teachers show and tell Arctic kayak adventure
Journey to the land of the polar bear

There may be nothing quite like a journey to northern Norway, in a kayak, to make residents appreciate Powell River’s winter weather.

On Thursday, March 3, James Thomson Elementary School’s new Éco-Immersion program will hold an information night and fundraiser at Max Cameron Theatre. Claudine Veran, teacher of the program’s kindergarten-grade one class, will be presenting a slide show of her 2006 kayak trip to Spitsbergen Island.

Beyond her 10 years of early French Immersion teaching experience, Veran also brings a passion for the outdoors and wilderness adventure to the classroom. This is an ideal combination for the first year of Éco-Immersion, School District 47’s innovative school program that combines standard early French Immersion with principles of nature-based learning.

To describe Veran as an avid kayaker is an understatement. Through the summers of the past decade, Veran has undertaken two kayak trips to Greenland and nine trips to Spitsbergen, the largest island (twice the size of Vancouver Island) in the Svalbard archipelago north beyond the mainland of Norway. At a latitude well inside the Arctic Circle, Spitsbergen offers rugged and breathtakingly beautiful landscapes for its sparse population and any adventurers who travel there. Each year, Veran has clearly proven her sound recipe for adventure: one month, one double kayak, one friend, and one large serving of serious mettle. She has kayaked from Spitsbergen’s northern tip, through open Arctic Ocean waters around its western regions. Volatile weather and seas, polar bears, walruses, beluga whales, and vast Arctic mountain landscapes are all standard issue in Veran’s completely nonstandard summer holidays.

From 6:30 to 7 pm an Éco-Immersion information session will be held in the theatre foyer for any parents interested in finding out more about the program, as registration for the 2011 school year is now open. The slide presentation (in English) will begin at 7 pm. Everybody is welcome to attend. Admission is by donation and all proceeds will go toward a garden project for James Thomson.

For more information, readers can contact the school at 604.483.3191 or visit the program’s website.