Participants of the Big Canoe Project paddle their way through Portage Linear Park on their way back to Shoreline Community Middle School.

Participants of the Big Canoe Project paddle their way through Portage Linear Park on their way back to Shoreline Community Middle School.

View Royal paddling project teaches life skills

Shoreline middle school students learn to pack light for trip

A large group of Grade 8 students is divided into smaller units in a buzzing Shoreline Community Middle School library.

Most appear focused on their discussions, with a few exceptions who bounce from one group to another.

On this day, the topic of conversation is food. More specifically, what kinds of food to bring on next month’s planned paddling and camping trip to Newcastle Island near Nanaimo.

As Grade 7-8 teacher Dawn Christy explains, this is more than simply a year-end overnight adventure for the “graduating” students.

“It’s a year-long program, so it’s not just a camping trip at the end of the year,” she says. “They have to do all the planning themselves, with guidance, and we bring in different teachers and staff members and people from the community to give them ideas of how they go about planning for a trip like this.”

The program, which sees Grade 8s meet Thursdays, includes modules about coastal history, both geographic and demographic; the history of voyageurs and their canoes, food preparation and storage and other outdoors tips. Students practise everything from setting up camp and being ready for possible inclement weather, to cooking outdoors, and then of course there’s the paddling.

Paddling is something Shoreline has become known for, Christy says. Students in all three grades climb into the boats at the Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club on the Gorge as part of their weekly exercise routine.

Previous Grade 8 trips saw students go on more “cushy” outings where the preparation and sleeping arrangements were taken care of, she says. This program is designed to give the students more problem-solving skills, which Christy says is a big push in the curriculum these days, and is “as hands-on as you’re going to get.”

Students Maya Bernier and Molly Kines are excited to end their Grade 8 year this way.

“I like going to the Islands and just being responsible to fend for ourselves,” Bernier says. We get to work as a team and make meals, which I personally love.”

Kines adds that figuring out what to take and what not to take is important, as is the social aspect of the trip and being with friends.

Shoreline principal Nadine Naughton says the $14,000 grant the school received for career and trades-based learning initiatives has been well spent on programs such as this one.

“This is different learning than putting pencil to paper,” she says, adding that it integrates learning with where the school sits geographically, on a beautiful waterway.