Piikani Nation Secondary School & O’Chiese First Nation School Shine at Forest & Wildlife Education Summit

In a celebration of environmental education and Indigenous knowledge, Piikani Nation Secondary School and O’Chiese First Nation School recently made significant strides at the 2024 Forest & Wildlife Leadership Summit in Canmore, Alberta. Amidst fierce competition, these two schools emerged as frontrunners among the 20 high schools selected to participate in this prestigious event organized by Inside Education, an esteemed environmental and natural resource charity.

The summit, held over four days, provided an exceptional platform for 120 students and teachers from across Alberta to engage with over 60 experts in forestry, wildlife, and environmental science. Among the distinguished speakers were Stephanie Leonard, Environmental Coordinator from Caribou Patrol, Elder Heather Poitras from the Northern Forestry Centre, Jason Krips, President and CEO of the Alberta Forest Products Association (AFPA), and Todd Loewen, Alberta’s Minister of Forestry and Parks.

Throughout the summit, participants delved into a variety of hands-on workshops, including monitoring migratory birds, podcasting on science topics, and understanding forest hydrology. Additionally, they embarked on experiential field trips around Canmore, where they learned about bear safety, forest management, and Indigenous perspectives on nature.

Brett Weighill, lead teacher for Piikani Nation Secondary School’s Regenerate team, emphasized the profound impact of the summit on students, stating, “For many of our students, this is a rare opportunity to travel and see places like Canmore. It is the first opportunity to participate in a formal conference setting. We engage with topics in a real-life setting and make connections back to the text.”

The summit concluded with each school team tasked with creating an education action project to share their newfound knowledge with their peers and communities. Kathryn Wagner, Inside Education’s Program Director, highlighted the positive outcomes of the summit, noting that students left feeling informed, inspired, and empowered to contribute towards a more sustainable future.

Weighill further expressed the significance of events like Regenerate, stating, “This is one of the best conferences that teachers have access to. You will meet other teachers and schools that are undertaking interesting projects similar to your own. You can network, codesign, and maybe even explore educational careers for yourself beyond the classroom!”

Inside Education, as the driving force behind this summit, remains committed to inspiring K-12 students and teachers through various educational initiatives, including learning resources, interactive presentations, field trips, and professional development opportunities.

In the wake of their participation in the Forest & Wildlife Leadership Summit, Piikani Nation Secondary School and O’Chiese First Nation School stand as beacons of environmental stewardship, poised to lead their communities towards a greener and more sustainable future. Through their dedication and engagement, they exemplify the power of education to ignite positive change and foster a deeper connection with the natural world.