Calgary

First Nation high school takes education out of the classroom

The course teaches students about traditional survival skills.

Tsuut’ina cultural class reconnects Indigenous youth with nature

Tsuut’ina High School students are studying wilderness survival techniques outside the classroom. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

Tsuut'ina High School students trek out on a snowy path just behind their school, making their way to their wilderness survival class in a wooded area on the southern Alberta First Nation.

The course teaches students about traditional survival skills and is in its eighth year. These students don't learn in the typical classroom but outside.

Program instructor Kendall Jacobs said the program teaches Indigenous youth about more than culture.

"We have some kids that have a tough time communicating with other kids. Once they're in this class, we function as unit so nobody gets left behind. We're all a team, all family."

Nina Hunter says the class has her looking forward to school every day. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

The credit course is popular among students and fills up quickly every year.

"It brings them back to the land and gives them a sense of identity and it helps with behaviour issues too," said Jacobs.

Tsuut'ina student Quentin Onespot is chopping away at tree branches as part of his outdoor class assignment.

Onespot is learning basic survival skills like how to build a tree shelter. 

"We learned to build shelters and how to survive and stuff. School work is boring and this work is fun," he said.

High school student Nina Hunter is piling twigs and bark to start a fire. 

She said she looks forward to class everyday, and that students learn to work together and develop different skills.

"It teaches me a lot and I appreciate this class. I feel good I'm getting credits for this class I enjoy," Hunter said.

The Tsuut'ina wilderness survival program brings students back to the land through culture and teaches life lessons — while helping them earn credits to graduate.