The Shuswap Outdoor Learning Foundation is a registered charity in Canada. We are largely a volunteer run organization made up of professionals that believe strongly in the value of connecting people with nature.
Creating meaningful outdoor experiences for all ages that enable personal growth, while inspiring wonder and a deeper connection to the natural world.
Inspire wonder and awe in the wild spaces throughout the Shuswap, thus cultivating a connection to place and an ethic of care for our natural environment.
In 2011, a group of a dozen local advocates for children, youth, and the environment began meeting on a regular basis to discuss how to improve the state of outdoor learning in the Shuswap. These people represented a wide range of groups, and among them were teachers, First Nations educators, regional planners, biologists, parents and seniors. The group agreed that the Shuswap offers an amazing network of trails and parks in our region that are underutilized by children and youth. As the meetings progressed, it was determined that an organization needed to be put in place to facilitate, co-ordinate and liaise with organizations in this field and all things related to outdoor learning in the region.
In 2012, after a great deal of research and reflection, the groups’ first public endeavor was undertaken, a pilot-project titled “Shuswap Wild Wonders”. Three instructors teamed up to plan and deliver a resource rich and educationally charged outdoor summer day camp for kids aged 7-9 years. The feedback from participants, parents and the community at large was very positive – most of them requesting more camps for the next year that were of longer duration.
In the spring of 2013, The Shuswap Outdoor Learning Foundation was founded and registered as a BC society. Planning for summer camps began in earnest; members began giving talks around Salmon Arm, educating the public about the importance of outdoor learning. Two local newspapers wrote articles on our camps and principals throughout the school district kindly offered to advertise our summer camps in their school newsletters in support of outdoor learning for children.
In the spring of 2014, SOLF obtained charitable status and delivered 4 summer camps. We piloted a partnership with School District 83, offering outdoor based programs to classes; connecting kids to wild spaces throughout the Shuswap. Support was provided to School District-based events, such as "Outdoor Awesome" and supported the delivery of Professional Development days to teachers. We hosted our first fundraiser concert at the Wicked Spoon, celebrating our organiztional growth and raising money for our various programs.
2015 proved to be an exciting year. We offered an outdoor-based art camp, and for the first time offered programs for children that have just completed Kindergarten and Grade 9. Our school programs gained momentum and we began discussing in earnest the potential development of an outdoor school that would provide the school district and a number of other groups access to wild spaces with overnight capabilities. We also started a Business Sponsor program through which children in our community could receive sponsorship to attend one of our summer Wild Wonders camps. Fourteen students benefitted from this program this year, thanks to our generous sponsors. We also held our second fundraiser, this time at Elk's Hall with John Treichel's Scattered Atoms Blues Band rocking the house.
This year we have enjoyed continued growth on a number of fronts, though was also witness to the passing of Peter Jennings. Peter gifted his 51-acre property to the CSRD so it could be made into a conservation park, now called North Fork Wild. Peter was a special man, full of local knowledge, love for the natural world and who touched the lives of those who were fortunate enough to meet him. He will be missed, but his legacy will live on through the spectacular 'minor marvel' that is now the park. A plaque commemorating Peter has been placed at the trailhead leading off from the parking lot. We highly recommend a visit to this park any time of year. Info on the park here.
As an organization, we offered seven Wild Wonders camps last year, ranging in grades from Kindergarten to Grade 10. We piloted an Aboriginal-themed camp that was run during the school year by Michelle Kuster and Launa Payne. Twenty six students were sponsored to attend our camps this year. We began a Volunteer Leader Training Program where we trained six students from Grade 6 to 8 on how to be an effective leader in our camps, how to assist the facilitator and how to plan, organize and run a number of outdoor learning activities. These six then volunteered in three camps and received very positive reviews from students and adults alike.
Our plan to build a rain shelter at North Fork Wild Conservation Park has now been put through the pre-build phases and we are ready to break ground in Spring 2017. We also had our third fundraiser, this time at the SASCU Rec Center with the same band as last year and auction items from 37 local businesses. We continue discussions leading towards an outdoor learning space as well as strengthening old relationships while forging new ones in our community. We also offered our first adult workshop, this one focused on tracking with Aaron Alcott. It's an exciting time for outdoor learning in the Shuswap!
What We Do
“Shuswap Wild Wonders” Outdoor Learning Camps: Camps ranged from 3-4 days in length. The camps offer a high quality of education, taught by highly qualified professionals including teachers, wildlife biologists and horticulturists. Activities included hiking, canoeing, climbing environmental education, fine arts, team-building and leadership activities. The key objective of these camps are to connect children to the beautiful natural spaces the Shuswap has to offer, while providing fun educational experiences that enhance their knowledge of the outdoors.
School Programs: Our most recent area of growth is in partnership with teachers in School District 83. Applying the same pedagogical approach our summer camps offer, we take classes out on outdoor learning field trips throughout the school year. Some classes stay on school grounds or in natural green spaces nearby the school, while other classes venture onto our trails and into our regional and provincial parks around the Shuswap.
Community Lectures and Workshops: Our members deliver free talks around our community for Parent Advisory Councils and local businesses and special interest groups. The aim of these talks is to share the research that demonstrates the social and physical benefits to children by spending time outdoors. We have also begun offering outdoor-based workshops to adults in our community. Subjects that may be offered include tracking, mushrooms, birds, edible plants and local flora and fauna identification.
Organizational partnership: We are currently working with School District 83 to develop creative ways to increase outdoor learning experiences for students during the school year as an integrated part of their curriculum. We partner with the Shuswap Trail Alliance and the CSRD among other local organizations to develop educational opportunities in parks and trails in the region.
Adult Programs: An aspect of our program we hope to grow this year. These are one day workshops led by experts in the field of study. Our previous program focused on wilderness tracking and this year we plan to run two workshops on birds, and hopefully others in plant foraging, mushrooms, and plein-air art.
Youth Leadership: Successful applicants enrol in a free outdoor wilderness youth leadership training program over multiple sessions focusing on safety, team building, and wilderness skills. They then come support to support the instructors in the delivery of our Shuswap Wild Wonders camps.
Board of Directors