It was a trip of a lifetime for students from Robert Thirsk High School this May as they travelled into the wide-open skies of the Yukon Territory.
For nine days, 19 Grade 11-12 students had the unique opportunity to explore the area around the Arctic Institute of North America Research Station in Kluane National Park. Students were welcomed to the area at the DaKu Cultural Centre in Haines Junction by Kluane Nations elder, Ron Chambers, who introduced students to the rich cultural history of the area and its people.
The group was immersed in the sights, sounds and stories that abound in the Yukon Territory. Students worked and talked with the station managers, as well as, local trappers, miners, politicians and resident scientists and students researching squirrel, lynx, bison and snowshoe hare populations. They had access to multiple visiting researchers at the station working on intensive glaciology projects and northern science relating to climate change.
The group spent most of their time on the natural landscapes in the area, including hikes up Sheep Creek Trail to see the Kaskawulsh Glacier in the St. Elias Mountain Range and up the Kings Throne Trail to see Katherine Lake laid out below them.
The group was also able to experience the Kluane and Champagne-Aishihik First Nations culture and teachings in Destruction Bay and Burwash Landing. These experiences culminated in a full day culture camp on Christmas Bay with elder James Allen and his family, who opened up their traditional home, shared and walked the land with our group and helped them create their own medicine bags.
Everyone came back from this Yukon excursion changed by their experiences. The school looks forward to sharing their work with other schools and taking another group in 2021.