UPDATED: Sea to Sky: A Week to Remember?

Henry Chan (back) and Phil Wu (front) pose in front of a scenic background during their hike of the South Chilcotin Mountains.

Derek Tung

Henry Chan (back) and Phil Wu (front) pose in front of a scenic background during their hike of the South Chilcotin Mountains.

UPDATED: The original article did not include commentary from the school administration’s perspective. Mr. Alan Hesketh, Head of Residential Life and former Head of Outdoor Education, was interviewed and his comments have now been included in the article.

The outdoor education program at St. George’s is one that is unparalleled by any other school in the Lower Mainland. It starts in Grade One, with a day trip to Spanish Banks; and goes all the way to Grade 10, with the boys having the opportunity to go on a trip of their choice, whether it be rock climbing in the Skaha Bluffs or kayaking in Desolation Sound.

In previous years, the trips occurred in the warm weeks of May, but this year was different. The boys set out two weeks into the school year, the first group leaving the week of September 25th. Although, this was only half of the grade; the other half left for the week of October 2nd. This change had been talked about for almost two years before it was put into place; before the change, the Grade 9s would leave for their explorer trips in October and then went on their Sea to Sky trip in May of their grade 10 years.

This left a 19 month period in between the two trips, which meant that the boys could forget a lot of the skills that they had learned in the previous trips, such as knot tying and how to set up tents. With the change, there is only a 5 month break, meaning that the skills learned on their first trip could carry over to their next one. From grades 1-10, the trips are mandatory, but the boys were never given a full explanation on why this was. I asked Mr. Alan Heskith, current Head of Residential Life and former Head of Outdoor Education at the school about what he thought about Sea to Sky. I also asked a boy who had recently returned from his Sea to Sky trip on his views of Sea to Sky. The boy chose to remain anonymous. 

My first question to both was on why they thought that the trips are important to the boys. “We have some core beliefs and objectives and some are important at Gr 10. Independence, leadership. Trips call for authentic accountability from the boys that teach them core values for life that can’t be taught as authentically in other ways.” said Hesketh. The boy’s answer was very similar to Hesketh’s, saying “I think we are forced into these trips because it’s a different learning approach from the classroom. We can’t learn some things in the classroom as well as we can from trips like Sea to Sky.” Rather than showing a disconnect between the boys and the O.E. Department, it shows that even if the boys don’t know the full reasons of why they go on the trip, they still can see why they go on them. I then asked the boy if he had originally wanted to go on the trip: “No, I didn’t. I figured that a lot of the stuff that we would learn on the trip would be stuff we could learn in a classroom.”

Some boys have this same attitude when asked that question. I asked Hesketh on what he would say to this group ” I would encourage them to look at it as an opportunity to expand their comfort zone and have them try something new. These trips are a once in a lifetime opportunity for them to experience and learn from.” This seems to be where the boys that do not want to go on their trips differ from the outdoor education department. They agree that the trips provide them with a unique opportunity to learn from, but still have a lack of motivation to attend their trips.

Lastly, I asked Mr. Hesketh if he had any changes he would like to make on the Sea to Sky program: “Firstly, I really like how the dates of the Sea to Sky and Explorer trips were changed. But I would like to see the trips to be a more self-propelled adventure (for the boys). By this, I mean less base-camp type activities and more of a real expedition type trip. There’s something special about going places with people and that comes from going on a real expedition.” 

Although there is a lack of motivation for the trips from some of the boys, the Sea to Sky program has shown that it is achieving what it has set out to do. It provides the boys with a unique opportunity to learn life skills in a unique setting, and many of the boys recognize this. The program has turned into a tradition for the boys; one that they will look back on and appreciate.