Ranch teacher Nolan Malbeuf has always thought of the land as his teacher.

Leaving Schaller to go camping

That’s why, for the first time, he has taken Schaller Education Centre students to Chitek Lake on a camping trip to learn skills they’ll be able to take with them forever.

Ranch youth go on camping trips every summer. The goal is to create positive memories, experience relief, build competencies, and increase resiliency.

“In my experience, there is a power out here on the land, it’s where they belong,” Nolan said. “To me, it’s about leaving a legacy and passing on what we’ve learned.”

Land-based activities include learning cultural practices, fishing, making bannock, canoeing, and better understanding plants and animals.

There are also lots of discussions, with youth sharing their own stories. It’s all about taking what you learn with you.

“It all happens organically. We have a schedule structure and make plans according to the weather,” Nolan said.

He said he’s already noticed a shift in some of the youth. He mentioned one child had been feeling quite homesick, but after a few days of adjusting, has been having a blast.

“I watch him laugh and smile and swim – it’s awesome.”

Family roots

Nolan said while growing up, he spent quite a bit of time in the Chitek Lake area. But when he moved to the city, life got busy.

So, when returning to this space, he called some family members to share their knowledge with the youth.

“I’m no veteran, but my family is a huge resource,” he said. “They showed the boys some skills, like fishing from a net and filleting. It’s been pretty awesome.”

Supportive staff

Nolan and three other Ranch staff members have been helping create this experience for the youth.

Nolan hopes he’ll be able to continue to provide land-based learning for years to come.

“With kids, we have a duty to build them up. They have value and worth,” he said. “When we have an opportunity like this, it’s powerful.”