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The Outers Club

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Originally appears in the Summer 2007 issue

Some students characterize the fall season as a return to classrooms, books and studies. However, to a committed group of senior high school students in Atikokan, Ontario, autumn is the beginning of an exciting, demanding and rewarding journey through experiential education.

Atikokan {Ojibway for “caribou bones”) is located in the Rainy River district of northwestern Ontario and was once known for its mining prospects. Referred to as “sunset country,” the area is popular for the extensive array of outdoor recreation activities. The town has a population of approximately 3,500 people, with one high school and two elementary schools. The Outers Club of Atikokan, also referred to as the Quetico Adventure School, is an outdoor education program for senior high school students. For over 40 years, from September to June, the club has engaged youth in outdoor experiential learning that helps them to mature into responsible, confident, critically thoughtful young adults. The Outers Club is completely extracurricular: trips are scheduled for weekends and weeknights so that they do not interfere with school, and they are facilitated by teachers who volunteer their time. Activities include canoeing, snowshoeing, hiking and orienteering in northwestern Ontario’s boreal forest. Through these activities, students gain knowledge of the environment while developing confidence, self-reliance and life skills such as leadership and the ability to work as part of a group.

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Courtney Van Dijk is a graduate student in the Faculty of Education at Lakehead University and an occasional teacher for the Lakehead Public School Board in Thunder Bay, Ontario.