Getting Schooled in the Backcountry

“...youth these days can identify 1,000 logos, however, they cannot identify five plants in their backyard."

>> By Charlotte Beglinger

Winter 2010, Issue #23

There is something extraordinarily unique about being in the outdoors—that unexplainable feeling when you are on top of a mountain surrounded only by the blue sky.

Being able to enjoy climbing, hiking, mountaineering and other outdoor activities is a skill you can take with you throughout your life. Something you can use for holidays, weekend trips or just day trips. Being outdoors can be social or solo. It can be competitive or relaxed. It can be for fitness or to just for fresh air.

As Alice Weber from Parks Canada puts it: “The mountains offer such an amazing mix of fun, challenge and tranquility. The wilderness itself offers a sense of calm that youth and people in general seldom have a chance to experience these days.”

There are so many advantages to being outside. Growing up in Revelstoke I have been very lucky to be surrounded by mountains and glaciers. In five minutes I can be out of the car and into the forest, climbing up peaks, trekking across glaciers or skiing down fresh powder—a privilege people from the city would trade me in a second. However not everyone in Revelstoke knows what surrounds this little town, especially people my age—youth.

Youth these days can identify 1,000 logos, but they cannot identify five plants in their backyard.

Going to the local high school I have noticed many teens do not even realize we have a national park about five minutes out of town let alone know where Rogers Pass is located. Many do not know the extent of what Revelstoke has to offer: from mountaineering some of western Canada’s most amazing peaks to hiking in the beautiful meadows of Mount Revelstoke National Park. So we are very fortunate an outdoor leadership group is starting up targeting teens in the area.

The program will offer youth outdoor skills but in return the youth will get a chance to participate in stewardship— assisting at local nature festivals, restoration projects and citizen science.

Initiated by Parks Canada this program will help facilitate youth in finding connections with these places so they will want to protect and share them with others.

Alice says growing up she had some amazing mentors and experiences that shaped her path. She was able to go to an outdoor leadership camp for a week funded by outside sources. She hopes to get out there and give young people a “chance to build independence, confidence and camaraderie in a really unique and fun way.”

The program is aimed at all youth in the area and costs to youth will be kept to a minimum.

Florina Beglinger, a student at Revelstoke Secondary School, says it would open up new opportunities for her and others in the mountains and that it would help her know where things are in the park so that when she’s older she will know what is out there to access.

Besides being unaware of everything the park has to offer many students are also unaware there is even one park near Revelstoke let alone two.

According to Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, “…youth these days can identify 1,000 logos, however, they cannot identify five plants in their backyard.”

This program will help change that statistic. As Alice puts it, these days “everyone is ‘plugged-in.'” Once on a trip with a few students from Kelowna she says all the youth were so relieved they had a break from e-mails and cell phones.

When Florina heard about the group she instantly became excited saying she believes it is important for people to know what great adventures are at their doorstep in this amazing town.

Glacier Youth Outdoor Leadership Program:

The program has three key goals:
1. To get more youth outside, safely discovering and enjoying the natural environment in the nearby national parks.
2. To develop local youth leadership initiatives related to environmental and historic resource stewardship.
3. To expose young people to the range of careers available at Parks Canada.
It’s expected the first group of youth and mentors from the community will come together in the late winter. This group will create a framework and from there youth will compile a wish list and collaborate with national parks staff and community mentors to create those experiences. These could even include courses that provide certification.

Volunteer, mentor and guide involvement will be critical to the success of the program. For more information or to get involved, e-mail the Parks Canada Outreach Education Officer at or call 250-837-7528.




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