The Grade 2/3 class had a very special experience last week. For the second year running we went to the Norval Outdoor Education Centre for a two day, overnight adventure to celebrate their time at CGS. Norval is owned and operated by UCC and has become a very meaningful place for us at CGS. The students were led through a fantastic program that very few schools are lucky enough to experience. The program is called Paddle to the Sea. Paddle to the Sea was inspired by a storybook, where an Indigenous boy carves a wooden boat and sets it sail down a river awaiting the arrival of Spring. UCC has adapted this story to send hundreds of these boats down the Credit River, carrying important environmental messages created by children. Each student got their own wooden boat that they were given ample time to decorate however they wish. The only instructions were that the boats had to carry an environmental message such as ‘Don’t pollute the ocean’ or ‘Keep our Earth clean.’ Each boat had a picture of the child and an email address stapled to it, so that if a boat is found somewhere along its journey, we can trace how far it travelled! UCC keeps track of all the boats that have been found – some as far away as Quebec! The students were given time to play with and race their boats down the river before releasing them for good. It was a a very beautiful and moving moment to witness them saying goodbye to their boats.
The outdoor fun didn’t stop there. The students also made their very own campfires in small groups and cooked their own delicious lunch over the fire. This included carrying the materials to and from the campfire site and collecting the sticks for the fire themselves! They were set free into the creek with nets to catch crayfish and other little creatures, as well as playing some fun games in the field led by the amazing Norval staff. They learned all about food waste, and strategies to use to ensure you aren’t making too much. Norval was so impressed that our food waste (which we measured after each meal) got lower and lower each time! They tucked themselves into their bunks with no problem after such a big day and woke up the next day, very early, to an impromptu game of Canadian Idol! After a challenging walk through the woods following our boats, campers were rewarded with the opportunity to float down the Credit River, a really fun experience. We capped it all off with a slideshow of photos and videos collected by Norval staff to reflect on our time before we left.
We cannot say enough good things about this truly special experience. The students this year astounded us with their positivity, perseverance, determination and ability to work through adversity outside of their comfort zones. Their true spirits really shone through and it was a beautiful thing for us to see. We also cannot say enough good things about the staff at Norval – Katie, Liz, Brent, George, Alicia, and everyone else we came across. They are a very big reason why Norval is such a positive experience! We also would be remiss not to give a shout out to Paula – our mother hen and organizer – for all she does to make this happen. We already can’t wait for next year!
Paula, Lisa, Emily and Jordan
SK, Physical Education and Grade 2/3 Teachers
Children’s Garden School