It’s been a busy week so far for the participants of the Canadian Wildlife Federation Summer Institute which is right now taking place in the region.
The nine day institute gives educators a chance to learn about the cultural and geographical aspects of a region — this time it is the East Kootenay.
“The purpose here is to work with educators —educators from all over the country,” said Randy McLeod, Canadian Wildlife Federation education manager.
McLeod said the idea behind it is to give the participants an educational and cultural appreciation of the area that they’re visiting.
He said since they are in the mountains this time, they are highlighting aspects of the Rockies that are unique to the region.
“So they are gaining an appreciation,” he said. “We were out at the St. Mary’s Band reserve and Joe Pierre did a great talk with them and so they were totally exposed to the Ktunaxa language and culture and history out there as well.”
This trip is unique because all of the educators are from the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, in Central Ontario.
They are also partnered with the College of the Rockies.
McLeod said on Tuesday afternoon the group was off to a culinary class.
“So you can see there’s a wide variety of things we’re doing over the course,” McLeod said.
The group ranges from a kindergarten teacher to a grade 11 science teacher.
Educators apply to be part of the institute group and then there is a selection process which he said is based on simple criteria.
That criteria includes: relevance to the applicant’s program, applicant’s aims, whether the experience will be used as resources for the applicant’s classroom.
“We take a look at everybody’s idea of why they want to be here and then based upon that we start our selection, but then we also want to have a selection across the board from all the divisions across the school system,” he said, adding they want educators from different levels. “I try to run between 12 and 14 people.”
This year, the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board wanted all the spots.
“I’ve been working with them in the past and they said this is just phenomenal experiential learning experiences you’re giving people first hand. So I ended up taking the group from there and next year I’ll be working with the other people.
“In the past we’ve had university students, biologists — anyone who is an educator can apply to it, whether it’s the formal system or the informal.”
Throught the Canadian Wildlife Federation, McLeod organizes everything for the participants.
“All they have to do is get here,” he said. “Then there is a small registration fee.”
One of the participant made the trip part of her summer holiday — she drove from Ontario and is planning to fly back. Another flew down and will meet her husband and drive back.
Past tours have been Tadoussac on the east coast of Quebec, three times to Iqaluit on Baffin Island, last year they were in the rainforest in Tofino, and this year they are in the mountains of the Kootenays.
“The reason I picked here is I moved to Kimberley a year and a half ago,” he said. “I’m saying ‘this is gorgeous, everyone needs to see it.’”
He gets requests on places to hold the institute as well. One of the criteria for choosing a location is that there are enough activities to fill the nine or 10 day itinerary, while still staying with the theme of experiential learning.
So far they’ve been to Kootenay Bay, Crawford Bay, Creston and Cranbrook. On Wednesday they were headed for Fernie and then Thursday to Kimberley for two days. Then they are headed up to the Fairmont and Radium area.
“It’s a wonderful experience for teachers. It’s not a holiday by any stretched of the imagination,” he said, adding: “When you hit the mountains it’s a different culture out here, that they are already identifying.”