Timberland company sponsors First Nations youth camp
Jan. 30, 2017 - This past summer, the youth of Ditidaht First Nations shared many action-packed days of adventure at a local summer camp. Interestingly, the summer camp all the kids were keen to join was focused on education, culture and literacy.
Ditidaht First Nations have hosted Summer Literacy Camps, made possible by Frontier College, a national literacy organization, for the past two summers. The focus of these camps is to empower kids and support ongoing learning opportunities.
Studies show that the summer break can contribute to a loss of the knowledge students gained during the previous school year. This can have a negative impact when the child returns to school in the fall. In order to build confidence and keep them committed to learning, Frontier College began the nationally recognized Summer Literacy Camps program, which is geared towards the pursuit of learning and literacy. What makes it special is that learning is presented in a fun, interactive, and adventurous environment during the summer break.
“Since the Summer Literacy Camps program began in 2005 with a handful of partner communities in Ontario, we are now delivering over 130 camps across the country every year,” explains Richard Harvey, regional manager of Frontier College for Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon Territories. “In 2015, we expanded our program in B.C. and, soon after, Ditidaht First Nations began implementing the summer camp at their education centre. We started working with Lauranne Hutton, the local school principal, to create a program that meets the community’s values, while building a program that can maintain itself for many years to come.”
The Ditidaht Summer Literacy Camp runs for three weeks during the summer, Monday to Friday, and is open to all children and youth at no cost to the parents. Literacy and numeracy are embedded into all camp activities. For example, reading, writing, vocabulary development, and critical thinking skills are integrated into scavenger hunts, preparing healthy recipes, nature walks, and other interactive activities. The program also includes special visits from professionals including nurses, firefighters, and forestry workers who share their career experience with students.
Frontier College encompasses a holistic approach to its programming for Summer Literacy Camps by including recommendations from the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, which underscores the importance of integrating traditional and cultural instruction into First Nation education. The literacy camps are also built to complement the formal school system while reflecting the individual communities’ cultural traditions, languages, priorities, and aspirations.
“One of the most important aspects in the success of the Summer Literacy Camp is community engagement,” says Mr. Harvey. “Participation at the camp, from local community members, is a key part of the curriculum. When kids see adults they know and trust demonstrating the value of learning, it boosts morale and places adults in roles worth emulating.”
A number of First Nation traditions are included into the Ditidaht program such as traditional language activities, traditional crafts such as beadwork, fish-scale art and weaving, storytelling and cultural teachings and drumming and celebrations.
Ms. Hutton has been leading the program at Ditidaht and has seen the impact that the camp has had on the community. “With support from Frontier College and our sponsor TimberWest, we have seen many kids return for a second year of the program. The best part is that we are seeing these kids advance before our eyes — everything from their confidence to their skills, and the joy and happiness they get from schooling. The enrolment this summer climbed, and we expect enrolment to continue to climb over the coming years. With patience and nurturing, I expect that, one day, former students will come back to the classroom as role models for the next generation.”
Community members, including Chief Robert Joseph, are grateful for the program and they are thrilled with how their children respond to it. “Young people are feeling optimistic about their future and are gaining confidence in their skills. Not only are they learning the values of our cultural traditions, they are also learning the necessary educational skills to keep them motivated and interested in attending school. It is good to see that the entire community is behind this program, and that more opportunities are available for our young to learn from our elders. We believe this transfer of knowledge, from our elders to our young, is the foundation upon which our youth can build a strong future.”
TimberWest is honoured to support the Ditidaht Summer Literacy Camp, and sees this is as a wonderful continuation of the long relationship it has had with the Ditidaht First Nations.
To learn more about Frontier College’s Summer Literacy Camps, visit http://www.frontiercollege.ca/Programs/Programs-Offered/Summer-Literacy-Camps.