Students at Eighth Avenue Learning Centre in Port Alberni are getting a chance to learn on the land.
The school has been hosting outdoor learning sessions, blended with academic course credits, to get students out of the classroom and exploring different locations in the Alberni Valley.
On Wednesday, Oct. 7, students visited Harbour Quay, where they heard from Nuu-chah-nulth education worker Aaron Watts. Watts explained the history behind Harbour Quay, which was once known as Tlukwatkuis or Wolf Ritual Beach. The beach was historically Tseshaht First Nation’s winter village, where they celebrated their yearly harvest with a “wolf ritual.”
Students then walked to the mural on the side of the Canadian Maritime Engineering building at Harbour Quay’s entrance, which depicts the wolf ritual. Mural artist Shayne Lloyd talked with students about his experience with art and reconciliation.
Eighth Avenue Learning Centre principal Dave Maher described Learning on the Land as a “blended elective opportunity” for students.
“[Harbour Quay] is one of our more urban environments,” Maher said. “We want to bring students to areas they may not know of.”
The school has hosted outdoor learning sessions before—similar to field trips—but this is the first year the school has offered academic credit for so many different courses.
“Learning on the Land is an outdoor-based, experiential learning opportunity, blending several different courses,” Maher explained. “Students are not just gaining experience, but also academic credit.”
The sessions take place every Wednesday and present different learning activities in different areas in the Alberni Valley. A previous Learning on the Land session took place at Stamp River Provincial Park, where students learned how to build a fire, how to use a knife, how to construct a shelter and how to cook bannock on a stick. At the same time, students gained credit for classes like Foods 12 and Indigenous Studies 12.
Future lessons will take students to places like King Solomon Basin and the Log Train Trail.
“We want to get [students] out of the class, get them out from behind the screens, and introduce them to various areas surrounding the Valley,” said Maher.
The sessions work for Eighth Avenue Learning Centre, because it is one of the smaller schools in School District 70, said Maher. Sessions usually include a mix of up to 50 people, with students from Grades 8-12 staying in their separate “bubbles” while outside.
“It’s an opportunity to break out of the walls of the school, in a safe way, during COVID-19,” said Maher.