It was a very different fall for STS outdoor education trips. Adaptability and personal agency* are two of the life skills we hope students will further develop through their STS outdoor experiences and there have been few years when the learning opportunities have been more broad, real, and obvious than this year. While most programs in the province were shut down or inactive, we managed to address many of our learning outcomes and got out and about with the help of adaptable parents, students, administrators, and faculty. Our newly completed campsites made a huge difference and allowed us to do AHS-approved overnights on-campus with Grade 10s.
Our Backpacking 1 trip began with one day/night on campus covering hands-on content that included safe and effective use of bear spray, map and compass navigation, group travel strategies, menu planning, and wilderness cooking. The second day parents transported students to the Elbow Region of Kananaskis where we explored the Forget-Me-Not Ridge area building on leadership and outdoor skills from the previous day.
Over two days, Grade 9s had the opportunity to hike the campus trails, cook their own meals on backpacking stoves, and spend some time on the STS pond learning basic tandem canoeing skills all the while basking in the glorious (at that point in time) fall weather. Day two for the Grade 9s included a mountain day hike up some of the more scenic ridges in Kananaskis: Powderface Ridge, Prairie Mountain and Forget-Me-Not ridge.
By the time the Grade 10 Backpacking 2 trip arrived, so had winter. -15-degree temperatures and plenty of snow meant that camping overnight on campus was markedly different than it was during the balmy temperatures of Backpacking 1. It was quite clear to everyone that personal decisions mattered and that actions required care and good judgment. Our second day out we headed out to the mountains where we encountered dramatically beautiful views, continued cold temps and opportunities to apply skills in a more demanding environment.
*Personal agency refers to a person’s capability to originate and direct actions for a given purpose. It is influenced by the belief in one's effectiveness in performing specific tasks, which is termed self- efficacy, as well as by one's actual skill.