The Atlantic Wildlife Institute, a charity dedicated to wildlife rehabilitation, is offering elementary and middle school students a different kind of educational experience.
After years of offering programs for schools and community groups, director of wildlife Pam Novak said the Institute decided to open its own school.
"We've got forest base camps here, we have wetlands, we have lake and pond systems, we actually have our wildlife program as well," she said. "There's so much that can be used as educational tools for students."
The new nature school is a pilot project that will begin at the end of September and offer 15 students, aged 7 to 14, a "micro-school" experience.
"It's the concept of just bringing in a variety of age groups underneath one roof, where you can learn at your own pace and not be designated into one particular class group," Novak said.
She describes the approach as "community-based" and said students will learn core curriculum, with nature based themes.
Novak says their 120 acres will become an outdoor classroom that will allow low student–to–teacher ratios while observing all COVID-19 protocols.
Nurture a love of nature
Outdoor educator Greg Osowski is looking forward to teaching students wilderness skills that are centred around shelter, food, water and fire. He says students will learn everything from how to find safe drinking water, to how to identify edible plants.
They'll also learn basic survival skills.
"So what did our ancestors do? How did they create the things they needed for survival, for just living and thriving in society."
Osowski believes that if children understand nature, and if they develop a love and appreciation of it, they'll be more likely to take better care of it.
"We all need that connection with the land and I feel that we as a society have lost that connection and so we're missing something," he said. "This is hopefully going to help reconnect the kids who come through here with the land."
The music of the wind
Christine MacLeod is the school's arts and music educator, and is looking forward to teaching with nature as a backdrop.
"I will do some circle singing, we'll do lots of rhythm, beat, the fundamentals of music for sure." she said.
But MacLeod will also use "sound energy" from nature in the creative process, and plans to get students to analyze sounds like those created by strong winds.
"So we'd go into the woods or into the fields and start, 'What do you hear?' And trying to take the cacophony of sounds that we hear and do some auditory exploration. How do we discern what we're really hearing and how do we mimic that," MacLeod said.
The nature school will run from the end of September until June, and tuition is $4500. There are also three, part-time programs available for families that are homeschooling and looking for enrichment programs.
Pam Novak says the Atlantic Wildlife Institute has had a lot of inquiries since announcing the new school.
"If we can create a nature–based program that brings students closer to what their environment is, you're learning and you're creating a respect, and a stewardship for the land that's around you from a very early age," she said.
"And if you can foster that type of respect and then as they grow into adulthood they can make much better choices."