Regina Public Schools Wild Outdoor Research Team (WORT) Cypress Hills Outdoor School – June 21-24, 2016
WORT is a unique program for Regina Public Schools Grade 7 students run by the Outdoor Environmental Education Staff. Students who have an interest in outdoor experiences, environmental issues and developing an understanding of the natural world comprise the team. Students apply at the end of their grade 6 year by writing a letter of application indicating why they want to be in the program, what environmental issues concern them and what they would like to do and learn in the outdoors. The WORT team meets once a month starting in the fall of their grade seven year. The final adventure for the team is a 4 day Outdoor School. This year it was held in Cypress Hills.
Day 1 Twenty very excited students and four Outdoor Environmental Education staff left Regina at 7:00 am on June 21. The first stop was at the Chaplin Nature Centre to learn about the Northern Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve. Students were amazed by all the salt and loved seeing the brine shrimp. The group arrived in Centre Block Cypress Hills just after lunch and set up camp very quickly. Then it was on to the Whispering Pines Hiking Trail to learn about the state of the Lodgepole Pine forest. Students were also introduced to nature photography and nature art. Unfortunately, the hike was cut a bit short due to a thunderstorm that hit the area. The students were prepared with rain gear and even spent half an hour under a tarp while the hail came down. They thought it was a great adventure. Heavy rain continued throughout the evening and into the night. The cook shelter became the place to eat supper as well as continue on with the evening campfire. Students contributed great songs, improv activities, stories and games.
Day 2 Immediately after breakfast the team packed up camp to make the move to West Block Cypress Hills. Fortunately the rain had stopped and the day was sunny. Camp was set up at the Battle Creek Campground and immediately after lunch the students began a comprehensive stream study of Battle Creek. It was a beautiful day for it with high temperatures and sunshine. After supper the students packed their backpacks with water, snacks, rain gear and art materials. The group was off to hike to the Hidden Conglomerate Cliffs. The students were surrounded by beautiful wildflowers on the hour hike up to the top of the valley. At the top they spent an hour doing nature journaling and art with water colours, acrylics, charcoal or sketching pencils. It was a very relaxing and reflective time for all the students.
Day 3 The new challenge for the third day was for the students to learn to light and cook on one burner stoves like the ones they will hopefully use in high school for backpacking and canoe trips. They cooked in groups of three and made beautiful omelets for breakfast and campfire lasagna for supper. They loved being independent and cooking and cleaning up in their small groups. The afternoon was spent at the historic Fort Walsh. Students learned the human history of the Cypress Hills through a fabulous interactive program at the fort. The day concluded with evening team building games and reflections on their year with the Wild Outdoor Research Team. Students learned various leadership techniques and strategies throughout their year in WORT that will hopefully help them to become leaders in their school for their grade 8 year and beyond.
Day 4 Already time to go home. The parents were waiting to pick their children as the team arrived back in Regina after an amazing experience in Cypress Hills, but the students were not ready to leave each other. What started out at the beginning of the school year with students from 18 different elementary schools feeling scared and nervous had become a group of close friends with their common thread being the love of the outdoors. The Outdoor Environmental Education Staff saw huge growth in the student’s confidence, passion for environmental issues and leadership qualities over the year. They were an amazing group of students to work with. On behalf of the students and staff of the Wild Outdoor Research Team, I would like to thank SaskOutdoors for their support.
Lori Milligan, Outdoor Environmental Education Manager, Regina Public Schools