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Haida Gwaii program celebrates 10th anniversary

August 04, 2014

The charter participants in a groundbreaking Simon Fraser University field school in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlottes) will gather in the coastal northern B.C. archipelago on Aug. 7-8 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its creation.

Ensconced in an environment rich with cultural and architectural history at the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate, alumni, teachers, students, First Nations people and others will reflect on the program’s achievements past and present.

Through presentations, such as one by Barbara Wilson, a Skidegate Haida Elder, they’ll learn how the program is charting new trails in community engagement.

Wilson, a master’s student of David Zandvliet, a Faculty of Education associate professor and architect of the Haida Gwaii field school, has become the first Haida member to co-design the summer school with Zandvliet.

“Barbara is mining all oral and written stories by Haida people at the turn of the century to find out how they achieved environmental sustainability,” says Zandvliet. “She’ll use this information to inform her research on how to make Skidegate more environmentally sustainable.”

Since 2004 the annual six-week Haida Gwaii field school has provided a First Nations setting where pre- and in-service teachers can experience how environmental conscientiousness and values can be incorporated into academic learning.

Recently renamed the Environmental Learning Summer Academy (originally Summer Institute for Environmental Education), the Haida Gwaii program recruits about 24 participants annually. It is an offshoot of a larger program.

In 1971, Milton McClaren, an SFU Faculty of Education professor emeritus, founded the larger program, which has become the longest running environmental education program in North America.

Zandvliet is a pioneer in experiential learning and combining science and environmental education in First Nations communities.

The Haida Gwaii program focuses entirely on getting students outdoors to experience environmental issues rather than absorbing theory in a classroom.

“In our Vancouver summer school we would go out to a landfill and watch how bulldozers move around garbage piled 10 stories high to see how solid waste is managed rather than read about it in books,” explains Zandvliet. “For example, in Haida Gwaii we go see how First Nations people and Parks Canada jointly run the area’s national parks. We see how First Nations people manage forests that they’ve acquired through buying tree farm licenses.

What: 10th Anniversary Celebration of Faculty of Education’s Haida Gwaii summer field school
Aug. 7-8, 2014
 Haida Heritage Centre, Skidegate, Haida Gwaii

Read the full story here.

By Carol Thorbes, SFU Public Affairs & Media Relations