Experiencing sustainability on Pender Island


In June, a small group of students participated in the International Year One Sustainability and Leadership Challenge. They joined Julie Johnston, their instructor for the Economic, Social and Environmental Sustainability (HUMN 104) course, on Pender Island to experience a sustainable weekend. Shelley Jones, Year One program head, accompanied the students on this weekend trip, and teamed up with Julie, to create a memorable and wonderful learning experience for the students.

The trip included participation in Parks Canada's BioBlitz, an event that Julie describes as "a 24-hour survey of the biodiversity in the national park here on Pender Island with family-friendly activities." She emphasizes how important it is to include and inspire young children and youth in action to safeguard the future, something that Royal Roads students observed in various activities, such as the Early Bird Bonanza, that were very much youth focused with exciting activities. The students joined all the BioBlitz events over the weekend to find bats, search for different forms of marine life on a floating dock, learn about insects, and find birds, all while warming up with hot cocoas at night and getting their first experience burning and eating s’mores (a lot of them).

Due to the arrangements between Parks Canada and School District 64, the students were able to camp at Pender Islands Elementary-Secondary School. Taking (what seemed like) hours and hours figuring out how to put up a 15-person tent, they had time to reflect on their individual sustainable roles in the trip. The arrangement allowed low-impact camping and they were able to make their own vegan food every day. The school also was a unique example of sustainability, with solar panels on the roof, a school garden, and a garden classroom built from cob by Julie’s classes in the school. (Cob is an alternative building technique that uses natural materials – sand, clay and straw – sourced locally.)

Taking the community bus from place to place, the students also got to wander through the Farmers’ Market to see the small local businesses on the Island with their unique products.

On the last day, they got to try sea kayaking for the first time and this was no simple journey for them. A four-hour round trip from Browning Harbour on North Pender Island to Beaumont Marine Park on South Pender Island and back started nervously with shaky hands, but as they went on they got steadier and more confident. Julie likes to make this journey a metaphor for sustainability initiatives: “Quite often when we try something new, it's difficult in the beginning and we make mistakes. But we pick ourselves up, dry ourselves out in the sun, and keep on paddling! But if we've planned and prepared well (by, in this case, wearing the correct clothing), unexpected barriers and challenges don't have to keep us from carrying on our sustainability journey.” Which is just what happened when Julie herself got wet in the ocean (trying a new way of getting into her kayak), but stood up, shook it off and continued on.

During this weekend trip, the Year One International students got to explore one of the loveliest islands of southern British Columbia. They got to experience the ocean, forests, and lakes and they camped for the first time. They learned novel concepts about the environment and how to preserve it. Most importantly, they got to share this experience and its joy with their classmates from Royal Roads. Many thanks to everyone who was involved in making this great adventure happen.