Ryan Forseille discusses pine cones with Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett and B.C.’s Minister of Education Mike Bernier during a tour of Scout Island Nature Centre Tuesday showcasing School District 27’s Outdoor Education Program.

Ryan Forseille discusses pine cones with Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett and B.C.’s Minister of Education Mike Bernier during a tour of Scout Island Nature Centre Tuesday showcasing School District 27’s Outdoor Education Program.

Minister wowed by outdoor classroom

Outdoor education students in Williams Lake are receiving a broader education than their big city counterparts.

Outdoor education students in Williams Lake are receiving a broader education than their big city counterparts, said B.C.’s Minister of Education Mike Bernier.

“These students are experiencing weekly what students in big cities might get to see once during a field trip in four years,” Bernier said as he toured Scout Island Nature Centre with Grade 7 students enrolled in School District 27’s Outdoor Education Program Tuesday.

“It’s great to be out here today with all of the students,” Bernier said after discussing a birch tree with one of the students. “What you see is the whole involvement with the outdoor classroom idea where the kids are learning about everything that’s surrounding them. When you look at the environment part of it, it’s great to be out of the classroom because the world is evolving around us.”

As Bernier and MLA Donna Barnett toured the nature house and part of the grounds, students in groups shared some of the information they had been learning.

The students covered bird identification, marsh ecosystems, winter adaptations, forestry and habitat loss, predators and prey, the food chain and food web and tree identification.

Part of the presentation involved asking the minister questions based on the things they’d been learning, such as the fact trees lose their leaves in the fall because there’s not enough sunlight in the winter for photosynthesis and bears in fact only go into semi-hibernation.

After each station, the minister assured the students that he’d learned a lot from them.

Teacher Kim Zalay said it is the second year the course has been offered.

She goes to the elementary schools in the spring to let the students know about the program and if a student is interested they have to apply.

There is a cost involved with the program, but there is funding provided if a student comes from a needy family.

“We do the same curriculum as everyone else but our classroom is here or somewhere else outdoors for that one day a week,” Zalay said.

This year there are 27 students in the classroom learning about the environment, stewardship and outdoor survival, cross country skiing and canoeing.

The tour culminated on the roof where the students said the view provided them with the ability to really see the area and its wildlife.

During his visit the minister also toured several schools and programs in the city while he was in Williams Lake.

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