P.E.I. contest winners enjoy Banff school trip
By: Lynn Martel
| Posted: Thursday, Jun 21, 2012 06:00 am
“Hey guys, we have to post this on Facebook!”
Exclaimed with enthusiasm by 14-year-old Ian Soloman, the statement was directed at his fellow Montague Intermediate School Grade 8 French immersion classmates from Montague, Prince Edward Island.
The students and teachers were enjoying a Lake Minnewanka boat tour, which their host, Banff local Ben Church, pointed out was among the oldest attractions in Canada’s oldest national park.
The hour-long cruise was but one activity on an action packed four–day visit to Banff awarded to the students for winning the Parks Canada-run Canada’s Coolest School Trip contest.
The trip, courtesy of Brewster Travel, Banff Lake Louise Tourism and Air Canada, included riding the Banff gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain, visiting Banff’s Hoodoos and Banff Springs Hotel, viewing a Parks Canada fire crew demonstration and visiting Jasper National Park’s Athabasca Glacier aboard Brewster’s Ice Explorer vehicle complete with an overnight stay at the Glacier View Inn.
During their stay the excited students were welcomed by Banff Community High School Grade 8 students.
“It’s amazing, totally amazing. It takes your breath away,” said student Leanna Hambly, 14, of the Rocky Mountain scenery as the boat navigated gently rippling water. Her favorite learning experience on the trip thus far, she said, was hearing how gentleman naturalist Norman Sanson hiked up Sulphur Mountain regularly for three decades to record weather observations in the early 1900s.
“I was amazed to learn he put wire on top of his house to attract lightning,” Hambly said.
Admitting that she had actually cried “a bit” when she learned their class had won the contest, Sierra Macdonald, 13, said she’d enjoyed the Sulphur Mountain visit too.
“I really liked the little hike we did. There was so much to see, it was so beautiful. There was such a long view!”
Given that the highest point in P.E.I. is a mere 152 metres above sea level, and that at 6,641 square kilometres, Banff National Park is larger than 5,660 square-kilometre P.E.I., every one of the students expressed wonder and astonishment upon viewing the Rockies landscape.
“It is really different here from P.E.I.; P.E.I. is so small,” remarked Madelyn Delodder, 13. “It kind of feels fake. It’s too perfect. The mountains are so big. They are probably the size of P.E.I.”
Winning the contest, however, was no small feat for the Montague Intermediate School students.
Teacher Megan Morrison’s class created a well-written, entertaining and educational video, which related the story of the historical 1864 gathering of the fathers of Confederation at Province House in Charlottetown. Dressed in period costumes as Sir John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier, the students re-enacted the gathering on location at Province House, complete with a bilingual script and a cameo appearance by P.E.I. Premier Robert W.J. Ghiz.
The students chose the subject of their video to celebrate their province’s key role in the history of the creation of Canada.
“We actually could go into Province House, and [for the video] we had to show pride in our own province,” Soloman said.
Guidelines for the Canada’s Coolest School Trip Contest stipulated that students re-create a significant moment related to one of the 213 Parks Canada-managed national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas. Videos had to be no longer than three minutes and recorded in at least one of Canada’s official languages, English or French.
Jumping on board to help provide the winning prize was a win-win for Brewster Travel, said senior marketing manager Joanna Buckingham.
“We thought that was a really neat program, especially the concept of making a video,” Buckingham said. “It created such a good way to showcase the national parks, and what we do.”
Cruising past a seasonal waterfall pouring down the limestone walls of Mount Inglismaldie, Church, a born entertainer, described the lake’s depth, length and water temperature. Across from the Aylmer Pass hiking trail junction, the boat pulled over toward the lake’s south bank for its passengers to view – from a respectful distance – an eagle’s nest, from which a white head kept an eagle eye on its audience. As they resumed travelling toward Devil’s Gap, Church related how native peoples had inhabited the Minnewanka site for 10,000 years, and how the lake was home to bull, brown and lake trout. He also passed around laminated 8 x 11 colour photos snapped by a tour boat passenger of a cougar killing and feasting on a hard-earned sheep dinner in 2008.
“What’s the most dangerous animal in the Rockies?” Church asked.
When met with incorrect guesses, he provided the answer.
“Ground squirrels! You’re in a national park, what are you not supposed to do?”
“Feed them!” exclaimed a chorus of students.
In addition to the scenery, the local hospitality and wildlife represented a compelling attraction for the students.
“I like the goats – sheep,” said Bryanna Noonan, 14. “I love the mountains, and shopping for candy. Even though I’m from P.E.I., I’m not a fan of boats. I thought I’d be sick, but I love this. It’s all chill, doesn’t feel sinkable at all and our guide is cute – he’s fun!”
Overall, the students all declared they would remember the trip their entire lives.
“It’s my first time on this side of the country, and I would like to live here someday,” Hambly said. “It’s so beautiful here and we don’t have many animals, the biggest is a coyote. And you never get tired of the views.”
To view the winning video, visit