SD73 Celebrate McQueen Lake Environmental Education Centre 50th Anniversary

Posted On Tuesday September 27, 2022

By Rhonda Nixon, Superintendent and Grant Reilly, Assistant Superintendent

September 27, 2022

On October 1, 2022, Kamloops-Thompson Board of Education celebrates the 50th anniversary of the McQueen Lake Environmental Education Centre. Since its inception in 1972, approximately 250,000 students and educators have had the opportunity to engage in environmental education programming at McQueen Lake. To commemorate this ‘jewel’ of School District 73, plans are underway to recognize and celebrate the development and learner experiences of the McQueen Lake Environmental Education Centre.

Both day and overnight trips are offered at McQueen Lake. Each year over 5000 students visit the McQueen Overnight Centre, McQueen Day Centre, and the Isobel Lake Day Centre. Groups cook their own meals and the students help wash dishes, get firewood and water, and clean their cabins. This model has proven to be extremely beneficial, fostering student independence and encouraging students to have greater ownership of their experiences. Classes are active on site during fall, winter and spring, with students participating in various educational learning opportunities in which they learn about science, environmental concepts and aspects of art, career and design.

Students have the opportunity to learn about Aboriginal land and culture with the help of Aboriginal Education Workers. Students enjoy adventure challenges, archery, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, pond studies, hiking and orienteering. Wayne Deptuck, who has been employed as the McQueen Lake Resource teacher for 23 years, coordinates groups, does pre-trip orientations, and provides educational programming for all groups from students in Kindergarten through to Grade 12.

For Mr. Deptuck, students learning in the natural environment is tremendously rewarding, “When I see a student discover something in the natural world that amazes them, that’s when I forget I’m at work”.

A working group was established in Spring 2022 to plan for McQueen Lake’s 50th anniversary celebration. The group consisted of current McQueen Lake staff (resource teacher, caretaker, principal), former teachers and principals who led the development of McQueen Lake, and environmental educators who helped launch McQueen Lake. The working group has developed plans to celebrate this momentous anniversary on Saturday, October 1st, 2022.

“We are looking forward to a day filled with the experience that students have when they go to McQueen Lake. We will travel on a bus from NorKam Secondary School and then take part in activities at the Centre,” explained Superintendent Nixon.

“I am looking forward to being together and experiencing the history that helps to commemorate this important and unique venue in our district,” stated Assistant Superintendent Reilly.

Dan Sargent has served as the caretaker at McQueen Lake for 25 years. Sargant is responsible for caring for the centre, providing maintenance for the buildings and systems and helping groups on site. As for the future of the McQueen Lake Environmental Education Centre, current plans include an upgrade to the water system, a replacement roof for the McQueen Lake Day Centre and modifications to the teacher’s cabin. In partnership with the School District 73’s Aboriginal Education Department, there are also plans being developed to build a Secwepe´mc Cultural Centre which will include a traditional Secwepe´mc winter home or pit house (c7es7i´stkten). Part of the funding for this project came from a Kamloops Aurora Rotary Grant.

This column appeared in Kamloops This Week: View from SD73 on Sept 27, 2022

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