GERALDTON – For the first time since 1999, students at Geraldton High School are going outside as part of their studies.
A group of 13 outdoor education and specialist high skills major students braved the elements for three days and two nights last month for the Outer program’s winter trip.
“It’s something that the school had hoped to bring back a few years ago, but with COVID-19 and everything, it just didn’t pan out,” Geraldton High School teacher Kate Beaulieu said.
“It’s been pretty cool to be able to build this program up again and hopefully we can make it bigger and better from where it was historically, when they did a fall, winter and spring trip," Beaulieu said.
She hopes that the kids in the program can learn more about themselves, each other and have some fun along the way.
“I also want them to learn more about our region and what’s around us, because it is beautiful and has a lot to offer,” Beaulieu added.
She received help for the trip from fellow teacher Ryan Schram, guidance counsellor Andrew Carr, the school’s Indigenous grad coach Sara Carlson, and Lynnea Zuefle of the Thunderbird Friendship Centre.
During their recent trip outdoors, students set up at the Thunderbird Friendship Centre cultural grounds and quickly discovered that there’s a lot more that needs to be done for winter camping than in the summer, especially with colder temperatures.
That included digging out trails and tent sites, chopping wood, setting up tents and preparing fires.
“I think everybody was a lot more tired than they expected to be,” Beaulieu said.
“Not only is the sun going down way earlier, but just being outside in the winter for a couple of days will sap you dry. Normally on spring and fall trips, even if we’re canoeing and doing other activities during the course of the day, there’s a lot of energy that comes with running around and your up still late at night.
“On this trip though, it was 11 p.m. and everybody was asleep, which was really fascinating because that was a great way to learn about what it’s like for your body to exist outside in different conditions.”
Students also built emergency survival shelters, which Sam Larouche, Ayden Wesley and Nate Cormier tested out on the last evening outside.
“It was a pretty interesting couple of days weather-wise,” Beaulieu said. “It was really warm on that first day and then at one point you could hear the ice creak as it was being formed at night.
“Some of the kids told me afterwards that if they were in a situation like that again, they could survive being in an extreme situation with all the things they learned during this camping trip.”
At the moment, Beaulieu is starting to make plans for a spring camping outing and a hiking trip for the students, and is also looking at maybe having an ice fishing experience before winter comes to an end.
“I definitely want to create as many opportunities as I can and I'd like to stay as local as possible, because I really think that our region has some unique things to offer,” Beaulieu said.