Submitted by Erich Leidums
On Friday September 19, the Fernie Connections Foundation launched its first day camp for kids ages eight to 13. The founders of Fernie’s newest non-profit organization passionately believe in the value of children learning in outside environments.
After meeting in Fernie, 13 excited children were shuttled to the South Country to experience a canoeing excursion on Lake Koocanusa. The participants received professional canoe instruction, built their own fires, made traditional bannock and played in the woods. At the start of the journey, everyone felt the challenge of paddling into the wind, contrasted by the more relaxing sail back. All five canoes rafted up together and sailed back using a large tarp and the wind. The paddling adventure covered just over 10 km roundtrip. At the end of the day the children were happy about their newfound skills and were surprised by how quickly the day flew by.
The outdoor education program involves games and activities that often take place with a less competitive atmosphere. Anytime a group of people travel together to achieve the same objective, teamwork and communication skills are inherently required to achieve their goal. Supporting each other’s comfort zones and increasing self-awareness plays an important role in the learning process for children of all ages.
There are a large number of studies from all over the world with accumulating evidence that people derive enormous benefits from time spent in nature, both in terms of physical health and also mental health. Lower cortisol levels, lower blood pressure, increased white blood cells and reduced ADHD symptoms are just a few of the measurable benefits that take place when humans increase their time spent in nature.
Fernie Connections offers ‘meaningful’ programming by experienced staff. ‘Meaningful’ describes an added touch by professional instructors who facilitate intentional, fun and safe activities complemented by discussion, reflection and a focus on interpersonal growth.
Courtney Haeusler has started this company to create affordable opportunities for children in the Elk Valley to get outside. The Elk Valley is full of families who are active and can afford to have their children participate in a variety of outdoor activities. We love working with outdoor savvy children and also want to welcome those children in the valley who aren’t involved in traditional sporting activities (team sports, skiing, mountain biking) etc. Subsidies are available upon request. After funding our start up out of pocket, we are currently applying for funding from a variety of organizations.
Fernie Connections is running Camp Connect on non-school Friday’s through the remainder of the fall season. There will be two more days of canoeing and the following programs will consist of hiking as the main activity. Fernie Connections would like to thank Mountain High Adventures, Canadian Tire and the Elk Valley Society for Community Living for helping make our first program a success. You can register or learn more about Fernie Connections at www.fernieconnections.com.