The Wild About Vancouver Festival is a grassroots movement that started in 2015.  The intention was a brainchild of Dr. Hartley Banack, who teaches in the Faculty of Education at UBC.  His students were tasked with going into willing schools to design possibilities to task learning outdoors.  The schools in turn participated in some of the student designed ideas and introduced the ideas to students in another school.  The celebration of this learning was planned to coincide with the annual celebration of Earth Day.

During my first year of participation in Wild About Vancouver 2015, I was a teaching vice principal at Tecumseh Elementary School.  As has always been my practice, I spent a lot of time teaching outdoors to both generate enthusiasm for learning and prompt inquiry.  I also developed an “Outdoor Einstein” after school program with the VSB Community School Team to provide outdoor experiences that were unfamiliar to many of our students.  We invited students from a neighbouring school and shared the joy.

Each year the Wild About Vancouver Festival is a little different.  It is always happens during the iconic cherry blossom season of Vancouver and Earth Day.  As the Steering Committee changes, so does the celebration.  Committed educators and outdoor enthusiasts bring a vitality and energy to the planning that is palpable.  It is a model of collaborative practice.  It is also an opportunity to reflect on the things that matter to you.

As a Vancouverite since my infancy, the celebration has a few important purposes.  It is opening up the possibilities for outdoor activity to adults and children alike, as well as inspiring the desire to ensure those outdoor opportunities continue as the city grows.  It is also about breaking down the walls of the school, to inspire our children to stay curious and interested in asking questions and finding answers outdoors and making connections with what is happening indoors.  WAV also brings in focus how we take care of our bodies with exercise and our mental health through an ability to pause to notice, appreciate and wonder in response to the amazing and often beautiful things happing around us.

I am now the principal of University Hill Elementary School, in a school community that values the rich learning opportunities in the Pacific Spirit Park and down the hill at the beach, all year round.  During the week,  The Swornfern Community came to visit from Norma Rose Point School and participated in a scavenger hunt led by students leaders.  They were given the challenge to find…

  • 3 Bat Boxes
  • The Mud Kitchen
  • Garter Snake Corner
  • 4 interesting trees
  • The Butterfly Garden
  • The “We Are One” circle
  • 5 kinds of birds
  • The Poppy Garden Bed
  • The Reading / Writing Garden
  • Pacific Spirit Park
  • Site of the new playground
  • The Food Garden
  • The “Secret” spot in Pacific Spirit Park

Martin Sparrow came to share his learning with the Grade 4/5 students and the Metro Vancouver rangers came to share their learning with our younger students.  Joyce Perrault, Indigenous support worker extraordinaire, planned the opportunity for Indigenous students at Norma Rose Point School and UHill Elementary to meet in our “We Are One” circle to learn together.

The Wild About Vancouver Festival is very much about celebrating the possibilities.  Kate Foreman and Andrea McEwen are teachers on staff at University Hill Elementary School who were also involved in the very beginning stage of the Wild About Vancouver Festival. The Earth Day BBQ has become a model of how a school community can come together in celebration of learning and enjoying being outdoors.

IMG_8549This year Kate Foreman, led the charge in organizing and welcoming over 500 students, staff, parents, volunteers and community helpers.  David Eby, our MLA and Attorney General, joined us with his son.  Jennifer Reddy, School Trustee, attended along with a visiting rescued owl, an electric car, The Bike Kitchen volunteers, The Young Naturalist Club, the TREK volunteers and  community partners and parents hosting booths with activities for students. I was amazed when I was approached by a First Grade who held up his model of DNA (two strands of red licorice with toothpicks and marshmallows connecting them) and gave me an impressive description of the “building blocks of all life”.

IMG_8597At the culminating Wild About Vancouver TidalWAV event at Creekside Park, just north of Science World, the positive energy continued.  Science World gave free access to the Nature Play area for families at the festival.  The playground attracted a brave crew that were willing to brave a wind that Vancouver rarely experiences.  Gail Sparrow, former Musqueam Chief, and Alan Mackinnon, Vancouver Park Commissioner started off the event for us.  The presence of Youth Outdoor Education (YOE) students from Templeton, the Strings Orchestra from Magee, Search and Rescue, The Vancouver Park Rangers, the longboarders, Fresh Roots, Trek, the Sandpiper Program, the steering committee and participants made for an inspiring event.  Our 5th year of the Wild About Vancouver Festival and we are inspired to continue to spread the message.  Check out www.wildaboutvancouver.com and #GetOutdoors

Join us for the Wild About Vancouver Festival 2020

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