The Ecole Sir John Franklin High School that the Chemainus Secondary School group visited. (Photo submitted)

Cultural experience makes an impact with Chemainus Secondary students

Many lasting memories and friendships from exchange trip to the Northwest Territories

A group of 20 Chemainus Secondary School students returned from a trip to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories much more culturally aware than before they left from personal experience.

The Experiences Canada trip was an exciting opportunity for the students to immerse themselves in a totally different way of life. Teacher Sue Baker and chaperones Pam Dobbs and Michael Healey accompanied the students.

“It was an incredible trip, quite the experience,” said Dobbs, who’d never been to that part of the world before.

For Baker, it was a reunion of sorts with Shellie Trimble, who used to teach in Chemainus and is now at the Sir John Franklin High School in Yellowknife that the students visited.

“It’s a beautiful school,” said Baker.

“Our focus was cultural and environmental.”

An application process set the wheels in motion for the trip to become a reality.

“I put a notice out the beginning of September,” added Baker. “I talked to Shellie and she was into it.

“Lots of kids expressed an interest. Eventually, we got down to 20 which is an ideal-sized group. We took quite a diverse group up there – (Grades) 8 to 11.

”The kids were from different groups. There were some friendships that were formed that were really cool.”

The students had to pay a fee to register and did fundraising with bottle drives, craft sales, garage sales and roadside clean-ups to cover other costs while government funding was supplied for the flights.

“They were great,” said Baker of the group. “A lot of our kids have never travelled up there. It’s different.”

The students were billeted at the homes of the Yellowknife school students. They learned about many different things, like igloo building and dogsledding, how to make drums and saw the Northern Lights.

“The place we made the drums was an amazing healing spiritual experience and it was called Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation,” pointed out Dobbs.

They spent time in a classroom in the Indigenous community of Dettah that required travel by ice road to get there. They also visited the legislative assembly building in a private discussion room that’s not open to the public unlike the large assembly room.

The discussion room contains art that is representative of the past, present and future so they’re reminded to remember all those things when making decisions. With no political parties in the NorthWest Territories, the Aboriginal way of discussion and solving problems is adopted.

So many aspects of the trip left an impression on the students.

“Probably seeing the Northern Lights, that was my big thing,” said Grade 10 student Evan Ludvigson. “I’ve never been anywhere north of the Island – very different.”

“The cultural, when we were making the drums and learning about the culture up there,” Marcus Mason, also in Grade 10, noted was the fascinating part for him.

“There was snow everywhere,” added Ludvigson. “The day we got there it was -13.

“It was an amazing experience. It was so fun to meet new people and know the culture there and the landscape was so much different there.”

“It was very exciting going up there,” concurred Mason. “It’s kind of breathtaking when you go up there – literally. It’s so cold.”

“I think it was a very educational trip,” offered Grade 9 student Valencia Gunn. “We learned how to make drums and we painted them. We got to meet a bunch of new people.”

“I thought it was really good for everyone there to connect with our classmates and people from other places,” said Kyli Blanchard, also in Grade 9. “Even if we don’t stay close with them, we know people from up there. I learned more up there than I did here.

“I really liked spending time with my billet. We would talk at the dinner table for a long time and got to know each other.”

Group activities, including bowling, experiencing an ice castle and seeing the Northern Lights were the best parts for Gunn. “Those moments were the funnest moments – all of us together as a group.”

“I liked the Northern Lights a lot,” said Grade 8 student Makenna Hasberg. “It faded sometimes and came back.”

“We got one of the most amazing sunsets ever going there,” noted Grade 10 student Nina Bumstead, who’s looking forward to renewing acquaintances with the Yellowknife students soon.

“They’re going to come down in May,” she added.

The Yellowknife students will arrive here on the return trip May 8.

“I’m hoping we can take them to the downtown (train) station (in Duncan) and have a Totem tour,” said Hasberg.

It’ll surely be a busy agenda for the touring and reciprocating students, just like it was for the Chemainus group in Yellowknife.

“There’s a fine line between too busy and bored,” noted Baker. “We certainly weren’t bored.”

 

Students learned about a variety of arts, including the making of drums. (Photo submitted)

Bundling up was a definite requirement of the trip to handle the cold. Luca Sherry, left, and Nyah Healey are ready for the elements. (Photo submitted)

Doing some exercises in the classroom. (Photo submitted)

This was a pretty cool space in an Ice Castle for Nina Bumstead, left, and a Yellowknife student. (Photo submitted)

Bundling up around the fire was a welcome relief from the cold. (Photo submitted)

Evan Ludvigson and his classmates check out the assembly room at the legislative building. (Photo submitted)

Ice Castle was a pretty cool experience for Chemainus students. (Photo submitted)

Seeing the Northern Lights was a cool experience for Chemainus Secondary School students in Yellowknife. (Photo by Pamela Dobbs)

Sudents took great pride in learning to make drums and touching them up with paint. Nina Bumstead takes some lessons from Wiliam Greenland, a Juno nominee as an Aboriginal flutist. Beside him is Miah Bewcyk. The place where the drums were made is an amazing healing spiritual experience and called Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation. (Photo submitted)

Snow slide was a huge attraction. (Photo submitted)

Conditions were snowy and cold during the Chemainus Secondary School students’ time in Yellowknife. Sam Owens gets right into it. (Photo submitted)

Students with their Yellowknife sweatshirts. (Photo submitted)

Students check out a teepee. (Photo submitted)

Yellowknife overlooking the ice road on Great Slave Lake. (Photo submitted)

This is the Northwest Territories assembly/caucus room. There are seven appointed members and 11 public appointed members and the public members can vote out the appointed members if they feel at any time they are not doing their job. The building is built to represent an igloo and teepee. (Photo by Pam Dobbs)

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