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The outdoor experience allowed the students to study marine life. From left: Saylor Madden and Toyosi Ayanwola

Outdoor Expedition Offers Unique Environmental Education and Leadership Opportunities that Extend Beyond the Classroom

Ninth grade students at Alcuin, a leader in Montessori and International Baccalaureate education, recently kicked off the school year with an incredible 7-day sea kayaking adventure and environmental education experience in British Columbia. The students, who are among Alcuin School’s first ninth grade class, explored several islands in the Discovery Passage between Vancouver Island and the mainland while paddling approximately 50 miles of sea. The experience not only offered the students a rich opportunity to bond, but also hands-on, real world and relevant learning across the International Baccalaureate curriculum.

“Tomorrow's leaders need to be equipped for tomorrow's challenges, and we must adequately prepare our youngsters for the future they will inherit,” said Joanna Powers, Alcuin School Outdoor and Environmental Coordinator. “That requires a commitment to providing students with experiential education that helps them become future thought leaders.” 

The Alcuin outdoor experience is designed to help build critical thinking and relationship skills.  Alcuin faculty and staff, who accompanied the students on the trip, emphasized specific skills including questioning, investigating, developing perseverance, interpreting data, and problem solving. The trip also allowed the students to build organization, collaboration and communication skills while moving camp and paddling each day.

The adventure required rigorous and challenging work within a week of tent camping and outdoor experiences.  The students were responsible for making camp, helping with meal preparation, navigation and monitoring tide flow and waterway logistics.  The students also participated in guided and self-led nature hikes, discovered the inter-workings of British Columbia’s rich and plentiful inter-tidal life, and explored the magical emerald lagoons and marine phosphorescence.   

“Our trip was an awesome experience because it gave us a chance to get out of our comfort zones and put new skills to use in the wilderness,” said Spencer Saada, Alcuin Upper School Student. “This allowed us to get closer to nature and be completely tuned in to the beauty of our surroundings.”

Although the students spent the majority of the time in the backcountry, their visit to Canada also included a college campus tour of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver where they were exposed to an international university community that specifically seeks students from International Baccalaureate programs.

 “I thought the retreat was special because it gave us a chance to bond with our classmates outside of school,” said Toyosi Ayanwola, Alcuin Upper School Student.  “We not only got to use what we’ve learned in class and apply it to the outdoors; we also became closer by working and living together as a group.  Best of all, we got to know the new students which made us all excited about starting the school year together as members of Alcuin’s first freshman class.”

About Alcuin School

A vibrant, nurturing, coeducational academic community serving students from toddler to 12th grade, Alcuin School uses the Montessori and International Baccalaureate program methods to foster critical thinking and a lifelong passion for learning. With faculty support, students at Alcuin School are eager to embrace change, question the status quo, and prepare for their future as leaders in a global society. For more information, please visit

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