Between April 13-14, a combination of Grade 11 and 12 students participated in an overnight trip at Pembroke’s Algonquin College. For many Grade 12s, the field trip was their first—and last—overnight trip in their high school careers. Endorsed by Nepean’s environmental SHSM (Specialist High Skills Major) program, the trip introduced students to a variety of valuable tools and skills required in outdoor programs such as navigation with a compass, wildlife identification, and more. Despite being funded by SHSM, the trip was extended to students outside the program as well, allowing for a variety of students to investigate conservation skills and well as Algonquin’s programs and campus.
Pembroke is often referred to as, “The heart of the Ottawa Valley”, and Algonquin College’s warm and tight-knit community certainly demonstrated this through their hospitality. Students were treated to hot meals, hands-on field demonstrations with students and staff, and a student panel for Nepean’s students to ask face-to-face questions with current Algonquin students. These activities offered genuine and hands-on experience for students, giving them an exciting taste for what to expect in their upcoming post-secondary years.
Students learning navigational skills with maps and compasses
After an early 7:00 am start to catch the bus, the day kicked off with a group walk by the Ottawa river. Students were not only given the chance to test their wildlife ID skills, but stretch their legs and enjoy the sunny springtime weather. Armed with binoculars, a scope, and student guides from Algonquin College, the class walked away with a greater appreciation for Pembroke’s feathered wildlife.
One of the first opportunities to develop outdoor science skills was a water sampling demonstration by the river, measuring conditions such as pH and alkalinity, and opening the class’s eyes to the hidden complexities of Ontario’s waterways. With Thursday’s beautiful spring weather encouraging all to spend time outdoors, students were treated to plenty more hands-on activities. After tireless participation in soil analysis, students enjoyed demonstrations with Algonquin’s forestry technician faculty. The group learned the importance of drones in forestry, as well skills in handling Terrestrial LiDAR (light demonstration and ranging), a forest fire pump, tree measurements, and tree ID in a frantic scavenger hunt. The first day wound down with a tour of Algonquin’s waterfront Pembroke campus, and a film festival. Students enjoyed several winning short films and documentaries from the Paddling Film Festival’s 2023 “people’s choice” award such as Bad River, Georgie, and On, In & Under the Sava.
Working together to carry an inflatable white water rafting craft
While the next day ended at 1:00 with a bus ride back to the school, the group was treated to several engaging and hands-on workshops beforehand. For example, learning how to set up and carry white water rafting boats, orienting with compasses, and rope throwing skills. Finally, a panel of current students at the campus was arranged to answer any questions about Algonquin, post-secondary, and life after high school.
Overall, the Algonquin trip was a perfect way to blend together practical outdoor skills and education. It offered students in and adjacent to the SHSM program an opportunity to either expand their horizons or delve further into their interests, and opened a door into countless potential pathways.