Over the last 3-4 years I’ve had the opportunity to do multi/ progressive day programs with a class from North Saanich Middle School. The class is made up of kids who are, for the most part, quite unfamiliar with the great outdoors. The class, over the years, has come up with group names like: Adventure Squad, to Snoopy Dog Adventure Squad. I think the key word here is Adventure. For most of them simply being outside for the whole day is quite the adventure. It’s an opportunity for them to explore, be challenged, and grow.
Adventure squad is all about exploring the natural environment. We go out onto the front 40 and back 40 trails at our Prospect Lake site and have a good look at the land we’re on. Eventually we get out onto the lake and travel around the shoreline. For most of the kids they’ve never been in a big canoe or a kayak before. Sometimes we go off sight to check out other nature places and spaces that are so abundant here in greater Victoria. Every now and again we come across wild forms of life found in both lake and forest areas; creatures, that for many of the kids, didn’t know existed. As with all nature explorations, challenges invariably come our way.
An adventure isn’t really an adventure unless there are some challenges to overcome. When it comes to being in the outdoors preparation is key. The adventure squad were challenged with changing weather conditions, safety precautions, possible predator encounters, uneven and rough trail systems, heightened sensory awareness by being outside, remaining hydrated and well fed, physical challenges that led to sore muscles not usually used. Yes, the adventure squad certainly did enter what Power To Be refers to as the ‘growth/grown and challenge zone’. However, as they chose their own adventure and overcame various difficulties their resilience began to rise, and their confidence grew. As their confidence grew so did their knowledge of what it means to be outside.
One of our eight intended outcomes of our programs is to increase Environmental Literacy. This is achieved by increasing participant’s knowledge of the outdoors and appreciation for natural spaces, as we show them how to live, work and play in nature safely. By the end of the progressive programs that the Adventure Squad did, their knowledge of what it means to be outside had grown by leaps and bounds. They learned things like how to dress in layers to accommodate changing weather conditions. They learned the ‘10 Essentials of Safe Hiking’. They learned about the various fauna and flora that they encountered out on the trail, the lake, or the seashore. They learned how to paddle a big canoe working as a team; how to paddle a kayak, sometimes in a double, sometimes in a single. They will do an overnight camp: learning how to set up and take down a tent/ tarp, how to manage a campfire, how to maintain a practice of hygiene around food, among many other skills. Much of the knowledge that they have accrued has simply come from being outside.
The Adventure Squad is a lively, sometimes, rambunctious crew of enthusiasm. At first, many of them are unsure, perhaps somewhat disorientated, about the natural surroundings that they find themselves in. Lots of learning takes place, social bonds are formed, respect for nature grows, and the adventure continues. It’s been my pleasure to have sojourned with these folk over the last 3 years.