Teens thrive for days outside with Let's Lead-Nikanetan

Since Monday, 28 Grade 8 students have been camping outside at the Brightwater Science and Environmental Centre, south of Saskatoon. It's all part of Let's Lead-Nikanetan, an unconventional year-long approach to public school in the city.

Since Monday, 28 Grade 8 students have been camping and spending their days outside

This week, people throughout the province have been retreating indoors to escape from the brutal cold. 

However, 28 teenagers from Saskatoon have been spending most of their time outdoors this week, and they are thriving.

It was just kind of a chance for me to get close to some people before I have to leave somewhere else,- Tiana Greyeyes

The teens are all enrolled in Saskatoon Public Schools' Let's Lead-Nikanetan. An alternative to the typical classroom learning experience for students in Grade 8. The year long program is aimed at kids who are marginalized or bored at school, and gives them the opportunity to improve their critical thinking, leadership, teamwork and survival skills. 

Chris Clark is one of the teachers with the experiential education program. He said these outdoor retreats are vital in developing the students' ability to survive in the future.

"The reality is that from a sheer economic view there is almost no jobs out there where working well with others is not a criteria." Clark explained.

Since Monday the group has been camped out at the Brightwater Science Centre, just south of Saskatoon. This is one of 3 or 4 yearly, outdoor retreats the class will take.

Tiana Greyeyes said the program's focus on hands-on learning has helped her improve in math and science. She also said it was the only chance she has had to bond to others.

"Like I always move a lot, my mom always moves for different things," Greyeyes explained. "It was just kind of a chance for me to get close to some people before I have to leave somewhere else."

Terri Clark, a project leader with the Brightwater Science and Environmental Centre, says students like Tiana are the exact reason the program exists.

"I don't think there's a student I have met yet that has come out here and hasn't felt something special happening," Clark said. "Probably one of the most encouraging words I hear is 'I don't want to go home'," Clark said.

Let's Lead-Nikanetan has been running through Saskatoon Public Schools for the past seven years. All equipment, transportation and food costs are completely covered by the program. It's is based out of Westmount Community School, but any public school student from across the city may apply to take part.