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NOWE celebrates first year of programming

A Morley Community School pilot project called Project NOWE (Nakoda Outdoor Wilderness Experience), celebrated its first successful year last Wednesday (Jan. 29) at The Banff Centre. Funded by the Mary A.

A Morley Community School pilot project called Project NOWE (Nakoda Outdoor Wilderness Experience), celebrated its first successful year last Wednesday (Jan. 29) at The Banff Centre.

Funded by the Mary A. Tidlund Charitable Foundation, project partners Outward Bound Canada, Bridges Canada and The Banff Centre celebrated the end of the first successful semester of the outdoor leadership program.

“We are celebrating the successes and journey of the students that have participated thus far in the program,” Morley Community School counsellor Genevieve Soler said.

Students, families, funders, faculty from Indigenous leadership and Alberta Regional Grand Chief Cam Alexis were in attendance to acknowledge the success of the program.

“We started the program last year and it was based on the SAGE program (at Canmore Collegiate High School), except SAGE was getting funding from Outward Bound Canada through a partnership, said Soler.

Soler and Julian Norris (who also helped to set up the SAGE program) worked together through funding made available from the Mary A. Tidlund Foundation. The full-year program began with a backpacking trip at the beginning of the year and ended on the same note at the end, with monthly progression meetings to gauge program success.

“One of the main objectives in the program is high school retention and graduation rates and to increase those. The stats around First Nations kids and high school graduation is certainly far below non-native kids,” said Soler.

“What we did and why we’re proud of it this year is we changed the model; it’s quite a bit different from SAGE. We’ve made an intensive high school semester program which involves two teachers and 12 students and they work together for the entire semester, which is really different than (regular) high school.

“Normally, high school kids switch teachers and classes throughout the day. Our main goal was to really focus on relationships between teachers and students and peer relationships and creating ways of learning that are meaningful that engage and bring kids to school.”

The program includes physical activities along with mentoring partnership programs. “We’ve been partnering with The Banff Centre leadership workshops like they would do with their Aboriginal leadership program with adults, but we were piloting it with youth,” said Soler.

“It was partnered with Outward Bound Canada, so the year started with a seven-day backpacking trip. The two teachers would plan accordingly and the students also got credits, which was different from last year. So students were working on a Science 14 credit, they were working on two phys ed. credits and also some other CPS credits. Kids could potentially come out with 15 credits by the end of the semester.”

On average, students were out of school three days a week taking part in outdoor activities and learning, while the other days were spent in school with a community service component to the project, which included students volunteering at a food bank and the Mustard Seed in downtown Calgary.

“Definitely the outdoor component was a big draw for the kids – the kids would come to school because they would know it would be skiing, or they knew they would be climbing and once you get the kids to school you’re able to deliver curriculum and build relationships,” Soler said.

“Camp Chief Hector has been a really great partner with this, along with Outward Bound Canada and The Banff Centre. Due to the success NOWE has achieved, the program is looking to run next year over two semesters.”

Community members who wish to get involved in the NOWE program should contact Soler at Morley Community School or the Mary A. Tidlund Foundation.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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