An innovative program which takes kids out of the classroom to help them achieve academic success is expanding on Vancouver Island.
The Take a Hike program, a privately funded, non-profit foundation, partners with public school districts to create a parallel classroom for vulnerable high school youth focused on outdoor programming.
Pete Prediger, the director of programs for Take a Hike, says the programs are full time, with 15 to 20 students taught by a teacher, and supported by a youth and family worker and a full-time mental health clinician.
The program started in Vancouver in 2000, but has since expanded to Metro Vancouver, the West Kootenays and Vancouver Island. A new program in Saanich joins existing programs in Nanaimo and Cowichan this year.
Prediger says students are often wide-eyed and wary in the beginning.
"But as they go throughout the year and the big piece is that as they develop trust with the staff, the relationships with these students and staff are what allow us to bring about change in their life," Prediger said.
"Staff and students often describe the classroom especially at the end of the year like, 'this felt like family.' "
While the class is encouraged to be outside as much as possible, Take a Hike provides one field trip outing per week including all the means of transportation and equipment for students and staff to be out together.
While intake is generally determined by the school district, designated staff in participating school districts can answer questions about the program.
"Every student is so unique and they come with different needs, different trauma, and I want to give them a new experience of relationship that is almost irresistible to them to be part of," said Prediger.