Program taking education outside

The Centre for Learning Alternatives in Prince George is committed to providing students with new ways of learning and now with a new B.C. school curriculum in place, the learning has moved outdoors.

The new Ventures program offers a combination of physical education, outdoor education and leadership skills.

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"This is brand new this year," says Sue MacDonald, teacher and organizer of the program at the centre. "I've always taught outdoor education and with the new curriculum, we saw this as a new opportunity. We want to embrace it."

The new B.C. school curriculum aims to provide hands-on experience in collaboration with critical thinking and communications, essential skills needed to succeed in college, university and the workforce.

The goal is also to help students learn by exploring their interests and passions outside of the classroom.

"Through this, they are receiving credits but they are also engaging with the community and community members. The students volunteer which helps with future jobs and they can volunteer in areas that interest them," MacDonald said. "We've had lots of students want to be part of this. We had double the amount of students than we actually had space for. Attendance has been excellent because they are out there, engaging with the community."

Before acceptance into the Ventures program, which takes place three days a week, participants are interviewed and screened.

"We thought we try with baby steps in house and now we really hope this can grow. The kids are outside all the time, regardless of minus 30 temperatures and we've seen nothing but big smiles from this," said Lisa Norman, principal at the centre.

"I know when we get them out of paper-based work, they engage. This is from the new curriculum. Students can now experience what they learn and see the relevance and the importance of it."

Whether it's snowshoeing, fishing or hiking at Forests for the World while learning about plant identification, the outdoor activities are keeping students engaged and interested.

"The students are largely outside," Macdonald said.

"It's so ecotherapeautic. To be in nature, it's amazing, it's restorative."

The Centre for Learning Alternatives is a public alternative school in Prince George (part of School District 57) which provides a wide variety of educational services to students in Kindergarten through to adult continuing education.

Programs are offered onsite and offsite in connection with community partners throughout the greater Prince George area with a mission to help students achieve success by adapting to various environments while achieving their learning needs.

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