Courses have now been altered to ensure they are Covid safe.
When organizing programs for schools and groups, we communicate extensively with teachers and leaders to organize the best sought after itinerary. There is considerable flexibility in the focus of our environmental education to most effectively address the interests of individual groups.
Given our incredible location, the Southern Gulfs Island, below are the most popular modules that can be added to any overnight adventure or day program:
The low tide shorelines that we traverse by kayak and the tidepools that we explore on our oceanside hikes, portray a brightly colored world of crab, mussel, limpet, oyster, sculpin, sea anemone, several varieties of starfish, sea cucumber, sea urchin and so much more! Exploring and learning about these incredible marine habitats and ecosystems is fascinating and forever changing.
The intertidal zone maintains a balance between the land and the sea. It provides a home to specially adapted marine plants and animals. Those organisms, in turn, serve as food for many other animals. The intertidal zone is also important as it staves off erosion caused by storms.
Irresponsible actions by humans, particularly due to poor industry practices, have dire consequences for the health and equilibrium of our oceans and intertidal species. Coastal pollution poses a threat to tide pool animals and plants; discarded trash, oil spills, sewage spills, and toxic chemical run off, can all negatively impact intertidal marine life. It is important for us to share some of this information during our intertidal studies as well as enjoying the exploration of them.
More than 20 marine mammal species can be found in the coastal waters of British Columbia. These mammals are a diverse grouping of animals that depend on the sea for their existence. Some have adapted to living their entire lives in the water-- whales and dolphins; others, including mink and river otters, can survive both on land or the sea.
The waters around Salt Spring Island and the Southern Gulf Islands are home to an abundance of marine mammals and semiaquatic mammals including dolphins, porpoise, seals, sea lions, mink, river otters and whales. We peacefully observe these mammals as we paddle our kayaks through these protected coastal waters.
Discussions will focus on the behaviour of these various species and their interactions with other mammals including humans. Unfortunately, these animals are greatly affected by boats, air traffic and human pollution. Students will also learn about the threats to marine mammals and what part we all might play in advocating for, and contributing to, their protection.
Salt Spring is home to some giant Douglas Firs and towering Red Cedars. Big trees are indicative of mature forests and therefore higher biodiversity and strong mycelium connections. These underground arterial connections are a communication network for the trees; interwoven mycelium deliver nutrients from various parts of the forest and in return, the trees give the mycelium glucose.
Salt Spring is known to have a predominant Douglas Fir temperate rainforest which is now rare in world standards. The lifespan of a Douglas Fir tree is anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years. The circumference of the “Grandmother” tree on our island, takes 8-10 students arm in arm to get around it.
As we explore some of our local forests, we encounter fire-scarred trees along with living CMTs (culturally modified trees). There are many massive hand cut stumps depicting where old growth has been removed, most of it, hundreds of years ago. There are few big old trees remaining on Salt Spring Island and unfortunately, many of those left are not protected. These trees and the stands they are in, provide critical habitat for species at risk, such as marbled murrelets.
Forest sustainability is a prime focus of our discussions. We will look at how these forests sequester carbon, ensure fresh air, help to produce rain and build soil all on their own without human intervention. Students visit first growth areas like Mt. Maxwell or the Mill Farm and compare these to second growth, re-planted forests. The differences in the biodiversity of the old growth forest with its mix of Alder, True Fir, Hemlock, Yew and Cedar, are remarkable. We examine forest health and discuss forestry trends on Salt Spring, Vancouver Island and other parts of British Columbia. We will talk about what over logging does to slope stability, soil erosion, fresh water and the oxygen that we breathe.
This program will focus on learning about freshwater ecosystems, examining and observing microorganisms, plants, birds and animals found in our lakes, rivers and streams.
From our base at Cusheon Lake, we utilize canoes and kayaks to facilitate our search for some of the many varied species that inhabit this area-- beaver, otter, turtles, swallows, kingfishers, eagles, ducks, dragonflies, bass, cut- throat trout. . . We identify vegetation, including specific bushes, trees and grasses, that help to support a healthy lake and discuss some of the conditions that lead to its degradation.
All of the freshwater lakes on Salt Spring Island are watersheds and thereby require a delicate balancing act in order to avoid toxic algae blooms and to ensure clean water to support the local habitat, including humans. Knowledge and mindfulness are key to maintaining this healthy ecosystem and to preventing negative impacts from pollutants and erosion. We are fortunate on the island, to have watershed commissions and the Salt Spring Island Conservancy to help educate and put forth necessary protocols.
Later in the session we hike through the beautiful vibrant forest that borders Cusheon Creek and down to salmon spawning areas. The local Salmon Enhancement Society has made great strides in their work on the creek to help support salmon fry. Our observations and discussions will also include information on how the salmon run helps to feed the towering trees that grow alongside the creekbed.
LOCAL INDIGENOUS PLANTS
Salt Spring’s Mediterranean like climate is evident in the plant life that is found on the island. Dozens of plant species that are native to this area are found nowhere else in Canada. Sword Fern, Oregon Grape, Thimbleberry, Skunk Cabbage, Rocky Mountain Juniper, False Lily of the Valley, Ocean Spray, Wooly Sunflower, and Kinnikinnick, are some of the most common native plants of the Gulf Islands.
The focus of this program is about identifying and learning about these different native plants--whether they are edible or poisonous, and what they may be used for medicinally. Our hikes to discover these native plants will take us through a variety of areas on Salt Spring Island, including Mt. Maxwell, Ruckle Provincial Park and the Menhinick First Nations Reserve.
FIRST NATIONS HISTORY
Salt Spring is part of the traditional territory of the Saanich, Cowichan, Penelakut, Lyackson and Nanaimo First Nations; aboriginal use of the island dates back at least 5,000 years. Permanent settlements fluctuated over time with the main centres of population known today as Fulford Harbour, Ganges, Long Harbour and Hudson Point. A major epidemic in the 1780s and subsequent warfare with northern peoples, shifted resident populations to villages on Vancouver Island, Kuper Island, and Valdes Island. Various families continued to access their lands and resources on Salt Spring, especially for fishing and hunting. Aboriginal people remained at the present-day Tsawout Indian Reserve (Menhinick) until the 1920s.
Our discussions in this module will include information about indigenous traditional ways of fishing, hunting, travel, cooking and building. Students will help to create a cook pit, steam some vegetables using this traditional method and share in the edible offerings. They will also learn to construct a modified sweat lodge incorporating the use of some traditional tools, then enjoy the heat and shared stories within. Prior to that and while the rocks are heating, they will prepare bannock, a type of fry bread, originating from Scotland and eventually adopted by the Indigenous peoples of Canada. It is a simple bread, quick to make, and well suited for life in the wilderness. Students may also visit historic landmarks and old village sites of the First Nations on Salt Spring including Xwaaqw’um in Burgoyne Bay.
Additional Program Options for Day or Overnight Itineraries
- Survival Skills
- Leadership and First Aid Scenarios
- Initiative Tasks & Team building
- West Coast Crafts
- Music and Storytelling
- The Great Survivor Race
- Sea Kayaking Skills and Rescue Training on Cusheon Lake
- Ocean Kayak Marine Park Paddles
- Rock Climbing Introduction-- Indoor Wall and Mt. Maxwell
- Weather Systems-- experiments and making primitive instrumentation
- Organic Farm visit-- may include fruit tree grafting and building a Hugel mound