Outdoor education centre gets funding
Thursday, Jul 04, 2013 06:00 am
Canadian Rockies Public Schools are closer than ever to making an outdoor experiential education centre a reality.
Officials with the school board are in the process of singing a lease with the province for a site in Bow Valley Provincial Park and Improvement District 9 (ID 9) has donated $100,000 towards the program.
“These folks were extremely generous, as you can see, to give us funding to get us off the ground,” said CRPS Superintendent Chris MacPhee. “This significant donation or contribution to the program will allow us to move ahead much more quickly.”
ID 9 board member Alison Brewster said by helping offer broader educational programming in the local community she hopes the Kascades Experiential Learning Centre will keep local students from going elsewhere for this kind of opportunity.
“If we can add more programming to this area we can keep kids in Grades 10 to 12 in our area,” Brewster said.
CRPS board chair Kim Bater agreed, noting the district has several partnerships meant to broaden programming options and attract families to live or stay in the valley.
“It makes our schools and communities attractive to kids and parents and that is what we want,” Bater said.
Rick Werner with ID 9 said the program is a great opportunity to partner with the school district and offer educational programs in a “great setting.”
“We think it is a huge opportunity to partner and offer education in Banff National Park,” he said.
While the centre will be located in Kananaskis Country, MacPhee said CRPS is working with Parks Canada to see what programming options can be included in the national park.
The program is modelled after the Palisades Stewardship Education Centre program for students in the Jasper area. MacPhee said Palisades programming is even available to CRPS for when Kascades opens.
Because Palisades programming is already approved by Alberta Education, the Bow Valley program will be able to launch once the site is ready, which could be as early as this fall.
The lease for the site in Kananaskis includes a diner and three bunkhouses, which are near Camp Chief Hector, and would be for a five-year term. Initially, the program will be focused on students in Grades 10 through 12.
A steering committee is in the works to oversee the program. MacPhee said the committee would include members of the community and educators and focus on three pillars: development and funding, educational programming and marketing and public relations.
“We want this project to be sustainable into the future,” MacPhee said, adding there are a quite a few people in the valley that are already qualified to do this work with students.
The program is expected to cost $400,000 a year and the largest component is staffing. There may be opportunities, said MacPhee, to partner with Camp Chief Hector to find economies of scale.
Bater added the goal of the program is to go beyond the outdoor experience and offer students the opportunity to learn about conservation and the environment.
He said the program and the funding from ID 9 fits in with the Inspiring Hearts and Minds principle of having a community approach to education.