Flash Back Fridays

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION COURSES OFFERED TEACHERS AT STRATHCONA PARK LODGE 1974

In early 1974 a very unfortunate event that happened when a group of school children and their teachers set out to paddle down the Willow River near Kamloops, B.C. and many were drowned. First, Jim and Elizabeth met with the Deputy Minister of Education. Later, Jim, Alice Culbert and Geoff Evans met with Eileen Dailly in her office and told her of the need to train teachers in Outdoor Education so that such an accident would be unlikely to happen again.

Standing proud in front of the front entrance of Strathcona Park Lodge & Outdoor Education Cetre

Eileen was the Minister of Education with the NDP, a left wing party then in power. Eileen’s list of accomplishments while in office is long, but among the highlights are the introduction of mandatory kindergartens in the province, the abolishment of capital punishment in B.C. schools, and the creation of the first Native School District. From my point of view, a highlight of her career also included her decision to educate teachers with large scale programs to be run at Strathcona Lodge that following summer.

I think we had two months to hire the best staff available and to get everything ready. Our grant was for $100,000. Jim queried Elizabeth about the names of the Outward Bound instructors that had assisted with the woman’s course that she had taken at Keremeos in June 1973 and she told him about the Director, Geoff Evans.

The courses included ‘Mountain Leadership and Outfitting’, ‘Camping on Tidal Waters”, ‘West Coast Survival Skills’, ‘West Coast Native Lifestyles’, ‘White water Kayaking and Canoeing’, ‘Alpine to Ocean’, ‘Art’, ‘Weaving’, and ‘Sculpture. The sculpture course was taught by the well-known Victoria artist, sculptor and carver, Ken Bloomfield and his wife, Kate Bloomfield taught art.

In 1975 during her address to the B.C. Teachers Federation Convention, Education Minister Eileen Dailly announced that the Department is “hopeful (that) this workshop will be able to continue and that the department of education is again ready to pay the fees for those teachers who are interested in attending this project.”

The courses the second year added an ‘Environmental Art’ work- shop which included music, dance, poetry, painting, and carving; and ‘Folk Skills’ which included cutting shakes, frontier furniture making, axe hanging, stone masonry, cabin design and basic construction, quilt making and bread baking. All courses that year had a fee of $50, and the Department contributed $75,000 to help subsidize tuition costs.

In 1976 the courses were to continue and were written up in “Education Today” a publication for teachers. We received a letter from the government stating that the money was forthcoming. We took the letter to our banker which allowed us to borrow money to “gear up” for the third summer. Alas, the NDP government was defeated. The new Liberal government cancelled the promised money. I remember traveling with Jim to Victoria to talk to Brian Smith, the new Minister of Education. He was completely unsympathetic. This decision almost bankrupted us.

We went ahead with the full slate of course but they were not as well subscribed because the teachers had to pay up to $300 for each course.