West Coast right place for higher learning

The West Coast’s educational potential is on full display and local officials keen on promoting the region as an education destination couldn’t be happier. The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) pegged the West Coast as the setting for its sixth annual summer education course and 14 educators checked into the Ecolodge on July 18 settling in for an 11-day experience.

“I couldn’t pick a better place, in my opinion,” CWF senior education manager Randy McLeod told the Westerly News.

“It is a very wonderful, rich, vibrant area; rich in culture, history, and everything else. We’re just loving it out here.”

The strong early impression had McLeod already beaming over the West Coast’s potential to host the course again in the future.

This is the first time the CWF has held their summer course in BC with past courses held in Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Nunavut.

Those checking into the Ecolodge included elementary and high school teachers, school board consultants and college representatives, according to McLeod, who was stoked on exploring the

rainforest and immersing the group in creative approaches to conservation.

“These people aren’t coming here for a holiday, they’re going to be working,” McLeod said.

“I informed them yesterday that most of their days will be 12-14 hour days, so if they were expecting to come out here to rest and lay around it isn’t going to happen too much.”

Their West Coast itinerary includes yoga, paddleboarding, canoeing, seminars about indigenous governance, rainforest and marine education, species at risk, and karma-boosting activities like helping the Pacific Rim National Park’s dune restoration efforts.

“Were doing everything and anything that we can,” McLeod said. “One of the main purposes of this is to give educators, no matter

where they come from, a cultural and educational appreciation of where we are.”

The program is designed to help educators gain knowledge, build resources, make contacts, and take in an experience to share with their students.

“Our goal is to provide educators with an innovative approach to wildlife education that they

can’t wait to bring home to their students,” said CWF CEO Wade Luzny.

“This experience demonstrates that wildlife education can be incorporated into all grades, all subjects and all ages…It’s a holistic approach that is necessary to ensure sustainability as well as engagement.”

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne said the CWF convoy is “the tip of the iceberg with respect to the potential the West Coast holds for hosting education groups and promoting ‘higher learning’ as a reason for traveling to this corner of the globe.”

She noted the partnership between Tofino, Ucluelet, the Tlao-qui-aht First Nation and the Ucluelet First Nation focused on attracting higher learning opportunities

to the West Coast and marketing the West Coast’s educational backdrop.

“Imagine how many other groups are out there looking for the right place to base their education programs but they either don’t know about the West Coast area or they simply haven’t thought of us as a learning destination,” she said.

“The regional initiative we’re embarking on will help us learn more about how to attract more groups like the (CWF) groups, that learn from the ‘outdoor classroom’ and local elders and experts but who also share their knowledge with the community through seminars and presentations, and contribute to our economy at the same time.”

Ucluelet Mayor Bill Irving was delighted with the CWF’s eclectic

West Coast itinerary and said marketing the area’s wide array of educational possibilities to other traveling learners will be key.

“I can’t think of another place in BC that has so many assets and quality assets,” he said.

He touted the CWF’s choosing of the West Coast for its summer course setting as a strong addition to the region’s portfolio.

“Part of that initial strategy is putting together a list of assets, all the things that are available on the West Coast,” he said. “Were hoping to build that into a package that we can send to universities and institutions and invite them out to do exactly what this group is doing.”

reporter@westerlynews.ca

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