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.”