Pictured are past participants of the Columbia River Field School with Wildsight. Photo: Bailey Repp/Wildsight

Pictured are past participants of the Columbia River Field School with Wildsight. Photo: Bailey Repp/Wildsight

Wildsight offers Columbia Basin youth a river adventure

Youth from across the Kootenays have an opportunity this summer to be immersed in the mighty Columbia River

Adventurous Greater Trail teens are invited to take part in Wildsight’s youth field school – two weeks of camping, paddling and learning on the Columbia River.

Wildsight’s Columbia River Field School (CRFS) is a canoe trip and adventure aimed at students aged 15 to 18. The trip takes place from June 30 to July 14, and applications are due by May 15.

Students paddle key sections of the Canadian side of the Columbia River, camping along the riverbanks in a learning environment “unlike any other”, Wildsight said in a press release.

“The field school provides an opportunity for learning that is real, lived and felt,” said Monica Nissen, Wildight’s Education Manager. “Students come away with an understanding of the complexity of the many issues — ecological, social and economic — that are inextricably linked to the Columbia River and this watershed.”

The trip spans 15 days and includes various certifications including Lakewater Level 1 and Canoe Tripping Paddler certifications. Youth will learn skills such as map reading, packing, cooking, setting camp and “leave no trace” policies.

“But most importantly, students gain an appreciation for this watershed and the intricate role we play in its protection,” Wildsight said.

Participants will also have the opportunity to meet with guest speakers who are well versed in ecological, social and economic studies. The speakers will include government officials, Indigenous knowledge holders, scientists, artists and adventure-seekers.

“Throughout the trip, I built a strong connection to the Columbia River. Paddling several different sections (free flowing and dammed) really helped me to form a well-rounded understanding of why the Columbia is such an important river,” said past participant Ali Giesbrecht. “I had the privilege to witness its beauty in many forms, such as the wildlife and aquatic life, its geography, human connections with the watershed, and special locations like the headwaters and its confluence with the Kootenay River.”

READ: Wildsight updates Kimberley Council on Youth Climate Action team

Wildsight adds that “raising a generation of leaders who understand and appreciate the Columbia River, including the Columbia River Treaty and the effect this river has on communities across the watershed” is the goal of the program.

“Lasting improvement to our relationship with the environment requires more than a surface-level appreciation. For long-term change, we need to cultivate champions who have a deep knowledge and passion, and can use it to inspire wider interest in issues that affect our communities,” said Graeme Lee Rowlands, program coordinator. “The CRFS makes these topics come alive in the landscape of the basin and in the lives of participants in a way that no other program does.”

Applications can be filled out online through wildsight.ca, under the programs tab.

The field school is made possible by funding, however participant families are asked to pay a course fee with a suggested contribution of $800 to $1000.

“If this is a barrier, please let us know in your application. We will do our best to provide financial aid (up to 100 per cent if necessary). If you are able to contribute more than the suggested sliding scale, doing so will help us reduce the cost for other families. All food, transportation, and specialized gear for the trip will be provided,” Wildsight explains in the online application.

All CRFS trip leaders will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and it is strongly recommended by Wildsight that students are fully vaccinated as well.


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