Saturday 18 April 2015

Cross-Curricular Adventures

Melissa Berrisford wanted to give her grade 9 social studies class an active experience to learn about the fur trade era, but she didn't have the time or resources to create what she needed. John Buckley's senior Adventure Tourism class was looking for opportunities to apply their learning in situations that would replicate future employment scenarios.

The solution? Melissa "hired" the Adventure Tourism (AT) students to design an outdoor experience for her class that would allow them to actively learn about the fur trade in an outdoor environment. The AT class chose an appropriate location for a miniature Hudson's Bay trading post, built the post, designed various activity stations for the grade 9 students, surveyed and marked a trail into the fort, and practiced various roles that they would occupy when the grade 9s arrived.

Building the trading post
When the Grade 9 students reached the head of the trail they were greeted by their guides (International students who refused to speak English). The grade 9 students then had to communicate and barter with the guides so they would lead them to the trading post. Once there the students participated in various stations (run by the AT students) including the trading post, the fire pit (aka food station), and the games/activities station (slingshots and target throw).

Hiking the trail up to the post
As the grade 9s rotated through the stations they had a chance to experience some elements of the lives of the voyageurs. A highlight for many students was the trading post itself where they traded items they had brought from home for other items brought by the grade 12s.

Striking a bargain in the trading post

The ever popular fire pit station
Sling shot station
Reflections from students revealed that they had connected with the experience in valuable ways:

"The hike into the trading post camp reminded me how dependent the explorers were on their First Peoples guides. We had no idea where we were going and we had to completely trust them" 

"Today gave me a better experience of what explorers had to live through"

"It really put the voyageurs' journeys into perspective because I never realized how many frustrating feelings and hard thinking went into trading for goods"

"I will really remember the experience of trading, the mental picture of the camp with all the wood structures and the fire pit, and the tiring, focused hike."

The overall response from the grade 9 students was that the experience was valuable and memorable. The only consistent complaint was that they wanted to stay longer. Of course, the trip was only made possible by the creativity, planning, and physical work of the Adventure Tourism class, which is a reminder that we sometimes forget about one of the most powerful learning resources in our schools: the students.