Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve, Parks Canada, and Friends of Riding Mountain Park, teamed up with the Park West School Division last month to bring kids back to nature in the form of a three-day trip.
On the first morning of the second annual Grade 6 trip, 71 kids from schools in Park West School Division set off in the Lake Audy area to search for hidden clues pertaining to the wildlife around them.
“It’s like a treasure hunt and a race crossed with ‘Survivor,’” described Britney Hamilton, from Russell Major Pratt.
The students used GPS units from Friends and the Biosphere Reserves’ GPS caching program.
“It’s better and more fun than sitting inside and looking at pictures of wilderness in books. I like learning this way,” says Nick Harper, a student from Birtle Elementary.
Jen Tyttle teaches in Birtle. It was her second year attending the Park West School Division outing and she says that the students really enjoy the hands-on learning and outdoor atmosphere and are “very proficient with the interactive technology.
“It reaches all students. In class not all the students can seem engaged at all times, but out here they really are.”
There was also an archeological dig set up for the kids at a former “kill site” (a valley where bison would’ve been herded to be hunted more easily) near Gorge Creek.
By examining these placed “artifacts” the students learned about the people and animals that lived in the park thousands of years ago, including giant sloths who snacked on the tops of trees and beavers the size of picnic tables.
“Because it’s from the past and there are stories that go along with each object, I think it’s important to learn about archeology,” says student Harry Hodgins from Shoal Lake.
The kids worked on small plots of land called units, brushing away soil and shale to uncover animal bones, glass, and pottery.
Garret Rubeniuk from Major Pratt summed up the outing. “You’re active, doing more, it’s really like a big experiment. You get to walk through outside and touch everything instead of looking at a piece of paper. You can actually do things… you learn how people survived.”