Grant Stories

Mortlach School Grant Report

July 03, 2023

We left school and our first stop was Wanuskawin, a world heritage site just outside Saskatoon. It was National Indigenous People’s Days and we got to check out some dancing, drumming, and singing. We also got a body break at the amazing play structure there. We ventured from there to our walk in camp sites and Sandy Lake Campground in Prince Albert National Park. Students set up the tents and we figured out how we were going to organize our food and meals. We had a great first meal around the fire. The first nights sleep was a bit rough for most as we were getting used to sleeping on pads and the temperature dipped to around 8 degrees. In the morning we got up, got into our cooking groups and made some hearty breakfasts. From there we bussed into Waskesiu for a stroll before heading to Waskesiu River for a guided river walk. We had a scavenger hunt and got to search for all the critters that call the river home. It was so much fun, the kids loved it! From there we headed home to camp and made lovely meals; we laughter and had s’mores. An evening hike was both beautiful and rewards, as some of us got to try wild strawberries! The next day was our our chill day. We got to settle in and play some card games at our sites, stroll the shores, and sit on the dock at Sandy Lake. We bussed into Waskesiu where we hung out at the main beach for the afternoon. It was one of those perfect days that don’t happen very often on a big lake like that. There was no wind and just enough cloud cover to give some reprieve from the 25 degree heat. Most of us got some refreshments and some for an ice cream treat. It was a joy for me to see all my students enjoying somewhere I’ve loved for so many years. On our bus ride back to camp we came across a momma bear and her cub. The perfect way to see a bear, from the comfort of a big bus. That evening, after another supper cooked by our lovely parents and students, we went on a hike. It was cut short because the mosquitos were having a supper of their own. I used the opportunity we had, being away from our site and other people, to shoot off a bear banger, to teach kids about one of the tools we have when we are in bear country. I think it’s the second line of defence we have in protecting ourselves from bears, and protecting bears from interacting with us. The kids learned so much about the importance of the Leave No Trace principles, which are the first line of defence. We need to practice these in order to keep our relationship with these wilderness areas and the animals that call them home safe. A fox, we named Roomba, frequented our eating area, as she searched for ways to help us clean up after meals. The kids got a first hand chance to see how food left out, spills, and camps sites not cleaned up can affect animals. Roomba did not look that healthy and it was such a great learning opportunity for us to see how animals can become reliant on humans for as a source of food. They can unlearn how to hunt and rely heavily on what we don’t clean up. We got a chance to empathize with the fox and see the effects we can have on the environments we recreate in. This type of thing can’t be taught as effectively from a book, a video, or a class discussion. It was authentic. The beauty and variety of plants and animals was in the minds of the kids too, as they wanted to show me all the different bugs, plants, fungi, lichen, and moss…and the cute squirrels. Coming from the prairies, most of the kids didn’t even realize there was a vast forest that covers half of our province. What a treat it was to show them the beauty of the boreal. I hope to do many more trips like this with my students. They are not only fun, but they are so empowering for these students. We spend many hours planning, organizing, and learning about camping an the boreal forest. A trip like this fosters leadership, belonging, mastery, and a love of nature. It creates a sense of self and maybe a sense of purpose. I know it has for me.