From August 22 – 31, 25 students from Dunbarton High School in Grades 11 and 12 had the opportunity to experience the wild north in Churchill, Manitoba.
Students participated in a co-op course which, once successfully completed, would earn them two credits. The first part of the program entailed working 80 volunteer hours in the community, in addition to being certified in first aid and CPR training, customer service, portfolio building, and species identification. The students sacrificed their weekends, evenings and March Break to complete this requirement. The second, and final part of the program, was the Experiential Learning Program which included their trip to Churchill, Manitoba.
“It was amazing because the kids had to work for it, in order for them to come on the trip,” explains Aimee Nelson, Cooperative Education teacher. “They gave up their weekends or their nights, to do their 80 hours of community service. So, we had kids that were really passionate.”
David Gordon, Cooperative Education teacher, went to Churchill in 2016 through a grant that was sponsored by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF). “The idea was to do some research about creating an educational experience up there,” explains Gordon.
The Churchill Experience
The class stayed at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, a home for researchers and grad students who mainly focus on the field of sustainability. The facility is also open to the public. Gordon says since these groups are living together, “there are so many opportunities for spontaneous interactions.”
Connor Abe Gokool went to Churchill with the class and before he left, he said he was interested in meeting the students and scientist to figure out if it is something he would like to pursue as a career. He also said that he was, “looking forward to just being up there. I think it will be one of the few times that I’ll be up in the Artic and being able to see polar bears because in a couple years that might not be something you can do.”
The class had an activity-packed itinerary which included visiting the Canadian Museum for Human Rights when they were in Winnipeg. They went to the tundra in tundra buggies, and hiked by Ramsay Lake. There was also reflection time for the students.
Nelson and Gordon said it was a memorable trip for everyone. The students learned about the experiences of Indigenous people from colonialism to present day, nature and sustainability, and why they should not to take what they have for granted. The class donated school supplies and fresh apples to the people in the region.
“I think they saw how hard life is up there,” says Nelson. “They are more thoughtful with how they are living their lives and how to give back.”