Getting stranded on an island with your students may sound like a field trip nightmare, but in St. Lawrence Islands National Park’s new program, Island Quest, that scenario spells fun.
Offered by the park in partnership with the Gananoque Boat Line, this hike program takes school groups by boat to Georgina Island in the heart of the Thousand Islands region.
Parks Canada interpreter Paul Bruneau designed the program for Grade 7 and 9 students, linking it to the Ontario Geography curriculum for both grades, as well as the Science and Technology curriculum for Grade 7. While the region’s geology and the interaction of different elements of the landscape are highlighted in the content of the program, Bruneau kept fun foremost in mind when creating Island Quest.
“I wanted the students to spend some time outside, learning and doing something that challenged them, but it had to be packaged in a fun activity,” says Bruneau.
Upon arrival, students are divided into teams and assigned bright bandanas, Survivor-style. They are then given instructions to solve a series of rhymed riddles using clues hidden on the island. The riddles provide content on the sensitive Thousand Islands ecosystem represented in St. Lawrence Islands National Park, as well as information on the role of national parks across the country.
With the aid of a map, a compass and binoculars they set out on their quest. If the riddles are answered correctly, they’ll find their tickets back to the mainland.
Students and teachers have responded to the island challenge with enthusiasm. “The students really enjoyed it. The whole concept of going over in the boat and having to find the clues was very fun for them,” says Maxine Cole, a teacher at the Akwesasne Freedom School of Hogansburg, NY.
Cole says the quest was well-suited to the students’ learning level—challenging but something they could work through with a sense of satisfaction. Also, she notes that this hands-on style of learning was very engaging. “They were outside, they were physically moving and they had to observe their environment.”
Cole says that out on the island, without other distractions, students had an opportunity to practise an important skill: paying close attention to the world around them.
“The island is like your own little ecosystem or environment,” says Cole. “Out there they could focus on the trees.”
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For more information about Island Quest, contact Kim Robinson at St. Lawrence Islands National Park at 613-923-5929 or email@example.com. To book your Island Quest excursion, contact Temple and Temple Tours at 1-800-465-1532 or Gananoque Boat Line at 1-888-717-4837.
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s January 2009 issue.