News — 20 July 2012
By Jennifer Thurbide

On July 12, 2012 a group of students happily descended on Kinsmen Beach in Red Lake for a lesson in their floating classroom.

The dozen students are enrolled in summer school with a twist as, with instruction from Red Lake District High School (RLDHS) teacher Sarah Wood, they have been learning the proper paddling technique to manage a canoe, and wilderness and survival skills to survive overnight in the woods as part of a new student success program called Reach Ahead.

Describing the Reach Ahead program, Wood said before her canoeing lesson last week “[the program] is for grade 8 graduates coming into high school in the fall. It helps students be more prepared for grade 9 as they are able to get comfortable in the high school (new surroundings) in a less intimidating manner and build new friendships and rapport with staff and it maintains students learning skills over summer.”

Expanding on the outdoor education component of their curriculum, RLDHS is piloting the concept this summer. The future high school students will complete 110 instructional hours, half of which will be on a three day canoe trip and will receive high school credit for their time.

Wood confirmed students are “learning paddling skills, cooking/camping skills, orienteering, plant/wildlife identification, environmental education, survival skills, safety, and fitness training,” as well as having team building, trust, and communication skills instilled throughout the program.

She also noted the philosophy behind the program is to enable students to earn a high school credit over the summer before they enter grade 9 in an effort to encourage future academic success. “Data has shown that students who fail to earn a credit in grade 9 are less likely to graduate high school than those who have all 8 credits. By earning a credit before grade 9, they are more likely to have all eight credits at the end of the school year, thereby more likely to graduate in the future. It can also help students down the road by allowing them an opportunity to take a spare when their course load is more difficult or by allowing them freedom to choose another elective,” said the instructor.

However, when speaking to the Northern Sun News last week before class students seemed less interested in the resulting course credit than in learning or improving their outdoor and paddling skills. Instead the class felt like another summer morning paddling around Forestry Point. And their favourite lesson? – perfecting the art of tossing their canoes during the warm summer mornings.

The student’s three-day adventure will begin on July 24th and will take them from Johnson Lake to Onnie Lake.

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