Adam Hayes and Krista Bogen run COAST, an outdoor education program at Gleneagle Secondary.
For one semester, twenty-four grade 10 students take this comprehensive course that gives them credit for English 10, Social Studies 10, Planning 10 online, Leadership 11 and both PE 10 and 11. The teachers integrate as many of these subjects as possible through, for instance, Project-Based Learning, but the learning outcomes stay the same. In fact, students in COAST write the same Social Studies final as all the rest of the grade 10s.
The outdoor component is understandably rich. Here are some of the main outings:
- hiking and backpacking through the Stein Valley for three days.
- winter snowshoeing and cross-country skiing at Manning Park.
- mountain biking and another trip kayaking along the Sunshine Coast.
- an 11 day canoeing trip across the Bowron Lakes. They will also have to set up individual tarp tents.
I followed the class up to the mouth of the Seymour one morning while they were canoe training for the Bowron Lakes. You could tell the students were eager for the upcoming trip, but they were also excited about what they’d already done and seen. They told me about the First Nations artifacts they saw in the Stein and the wildlife they spotted on the Sunshine Coast. As great as that sounded, I was impressed the most with all the skills they showed in the short time I was with them. Some examples:
- Leadership: Several students took turns getting the group organized (e.g. helping with canoes, gathering supplies, rounding up the group, etc.).
- Communication: As they were trying new canoeing techniques they had to stay focused, listen to instructions, and give their partners feedback as they navigated new strokes. I was surprised at how polite and articulate they were when they were asking each other for help. The students get feedback from their instructors, their peers, and the environment (e.g. the canoe and the current will tell them they are doing things wrong).
- Respect: You could tell that the group was tight knit. Everyone seemed to be able to partner with everyone without complaint or hesitation. They constantly acted as a team working through new challenges. One student called the group “my other family.” It was like Survivor combined with the Amazing Race, except without the competition (and the swearing).
- Physical Ability: The activities are not just for fun, and the students work incredibly hard. They had to portage the canoes down to the entry spot. Adam calculated that at the Bowron Lakes, they will have to haul their canoes and gear over 50 kilometres in total when they are not paddling.
“Leave No Trace” is a very important part of the program. Essentially, LNT refers to the overall practice to leave no trace of their exploration through the wilderness. It overlaps into all activities, (examples: When cooking, they pack out all garbage and food scraps. They stay on the trails so as not to disturb the environment.).
Krista says that the program is life-changing and the students learn a lot about themselves. Adam likens it to a Vision Quest where each student finds their voice, and they document their experiences in a leadership log. The program is not for every student, but for these students, it is a great way to learn because they learn by doing. One of the students, Michaela, told me, “I can’t imagine not learning this way.”
Krista’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Adam’s email is email@example.com