Stawamus Elementary's Cultural Journeys program brings aboriginal focus

A new program coming to Stawamus Elementary School takes a different approach to learning by putting a focus on First Nations culture and heritage and by moving the classroom outside.

Unique program hopes to counter declining enrollment at elementary school with outdoor-focused learning

A new program at Stawamus Elementary will focus on outdoor learning. (Susan Leslie/SD48)

A new program coming to Stawamus Elementary School takes a different approach to learning by putting a focus on First Nations culture and heritage and by moving the classroom outside.

"In September when school starts, we'll probably look at — well the salmon are running right now," Susan Leslie, the district principal for aboriginal learning, told The Early Edition.

"We'll actually go to the river and have a look at the salmon ... look at what's happening in the forest, look at the birds that are drawn by the salmon."

The program — called Cultural Journeys — is a collaboration between the Squamish Nation, the Sea-to-Sky School District (#48) and the parent advisory council at Stawamus Elementary School.

Leslie said it is the first of its kind, and the class will be "multi-age and multi-generational" with students from kindergarten through to grade 6 as well as elders from the Squamish Nation.

School risks being 're-purposed'

Stawamus Elementary has had declining enrolment, and the building risks being re-purposed.

Leslie said the program was in part an effort to bring new students into the school.

"What we hope is that children are engaged in their learning, and they take ownership in learning deeply about things that impact their lives," said Leslie.

The program is open to all students, and Leslie said so far between 30 and 40 per cent of the students enrolled are not from aboriginal families.

CBC Radio's The Early Edition will be live in Squamish on March 13. Join us at Chef Big D's at 38040 Cleveland Avenue from 5 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. 

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