As the second week of school commences, Grade 10 students at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) head off to two very different outdoor education camps run by ALIVE Outdoors.
“The Grade 10 camp is curriculum focused,” says Jalynn Bosley, owner and executive director of ALIVE Outdoors. The focus being the four electives offered through SMCS: physical education, art, music, and design and technology.
At Camp Arowhon, the physical education camp, students embark on an intense three-night canoe trip through Algonquin Park.
“They spend the first day at camp learning skills like how to pack their gear or how to light a camp stove,” says Bosley.
“A big focus is on teamwork,” she says. In order to find success, the students are encouraged to work collaboratively on these trips.
Camp Arowhon students are put into small canoeing groups of about 7-8 students with a fully trained and very experienced ALIVE instructor, as opposed to one of their teachers, says Adrian Spagnolo ’02, teacher and outdoor experiential education coordinator at SMCS.
“Students are the least comfortable heading into [the canoe trip] because the vast majority aren’t familiar with it,” says Spagnolo. “It pushes a lot of them out of their comfort zone, with no access to running water, and travelling by sunlight without phones or watches.”
“Most come back with a very positive experience and want to learn more about how to plan a canoe trip in the future,” he adds.
Grade 10 students in either art, music, or design and technology streams spend four nights at Camp Northland splitting their focus on their chosen subject matter and honing some of the outdoor and nature skills they learned in Grade 7 and 9.
“With the art, music, and design and technology camps, they spend half the day working with their teachers and then the second half of the day learning primitive skills like shelter building and fire building,” says Bosley.
Art students have the opportunity to paint on the shores of the lake and explore techniques used by the Group of Seven. Music students practice in small ensembles and altogether in a full band rehearsal, in addition to participating in evening drum circles. Design and technology students make their own paddles, from start to finish, while also working on other building projects.
The afternoons at Camp Northland are spent with Earth Tracks, an outdoor school specializing in nature-based mentoring and experiential education for people of all ages.
“They get to participate in different activities and learn skills like using the environment to build a shelter,” says Spagnolo.
At the end of the week, students show off their talents with an exhibition or concert.
“I deeply believe in the work that I do with ALIVE Outdoors,” says Bosley. “These experiences help people tap into their essence—whether it’s about learning to listen, trust, communicate, respect, cooperate, problem solve, work as a team member, or enhance their vision of their own potential.”
“It really is about nurturing connections—with oneself, with others, and with nature,” she says.
Head leader and student body president, Edward Qu says his outdoor education camp experience changed his life and taught him a lot about himself.
“It gave me time to reflect on myself to realize what I’m doing well and find ways to improve,” he says, “Without the camps, I would not be the student body president, I would not be a head leader at camp, and I would not be the leader and man that I am today.”
“Through the camps and the experience of being a leader at the camps, I have been able to accomplish a lot more than I thought was possible,” adds Qu.
Find more information about the outdoor education programme at SMCS here.
To learn more about our partner, ALIVE Outdoors Inc., and their philosophy on education, visit their website.