Field School instructors Carrie Harbidge, far left, and Ariane Batic, far right, took students through a scavenger hunt at the UCC on Friday night during a barbecue held to celebrate the program’s arrival at Ucluelet Elementary School. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Field School program inspires future stewards in Tofino and Ucluelet

“We have to feel a connection to it, otherwise kids won’t grow up to preserve it.”

The Raincoast Education Society’s Field School program has officially arrived in Ucluelet.

The program offers hands-on educational experiences to students from Kindergarten to Grade 7. Field school instructors work with each class’ teacher to connect field trip experiences to the school’s curriculum. Field School has been a popular success at Tofino’s Wickaninnish Community School, where it is entering its fourth year, and Raincoast Education Society’s executive director Mark Maftei said he is “thrilled” to be offering it to every student at Ucluelet Elementary School for the first time.

“They’re going to muck around in the bog. They’re going to do beach seines…They’re going to do a tonne of cool stuff,” he said. “Every week is going to be something fresh.”

The RES hosted a barbecue at the Ucluelet Community Centre on Friday where Ucluelet’s first-ever Field School instructor Carrie Harbidge told the Westerly News that she is eager to help students explore their surroundings.

“I’m excited to get outside with the kids and get them learning more about their local environment in a hands-on setting; getting them out of the classroom and into the bogs, into the ocean and into the forests,” she said.

She added the program will help raise the next generation of environmental stewards.

“For us to protect our environment we need to know about our environment. If we don’t know about it, we don’t value it,” she said. “We have to feel a connection to it, otherwise kids won’t grow up to preserve it.”

Tofino’s Field School instructor Ariane Batic said she has seen the program help students understand.

“Their faces light up on issues or topics that maybe they didn’t fully grasp,” she said. “When they’re in it and they’re a part of it and they’re experiencing it for themselves, they can really understand a concept that’s really important.”

The program costs approximately $42,000 to operate and is made possible thanks to donations from community members and local businesses, including a $30,000 donation from Jamie’s Whaling Station.

“It’s a perfect spot because of the communities that we operate in. They are small enough that we can offer the program to every single kid and we have support from people who really value this,” Maftei said. “The fact that we’re able to do this is a testament to the level of support we get from individuals and from businesses as well. It’s huge. It’s really a perfect situation where you’ve got a small town that really cares about this kind of stuff that also happens to be in a beautiful area of pristine wilderness.”

READ MORE: Unique outdoor education coming to Ucluelet

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