The Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network (CBEEN) has received $4,000 in funding from the Regional District of East Kootenay. This funding will be used for the Wild Voices for Kids program, a program that provides local environmental awareness to students from kindergarten to Grade 12 in six school districts around the Columbia Basin.
“It is designed, developed and delivered based on the personal interest and expertise by environmental professionals who are acting in their field. So we get an incredible array, an incredible diversity of programs that are offered in six different school districts and all independent schools in the Columbia Basin,” said CBEEN network steward Sonja Seher.
The Wild Voices program was developed in 1999 because teachers were unable to access community educators or environmental experts. The program has been running through the Invermere-based non-profit Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network since 2008. The program receives half its funding from the Columbia Basin Trust, but relies on grants and fundraising for the other portion of its $180,500 operating budget.
“We are really thankful for having ongoing funds from the Regional District to support programming. The Regional District of East Kootenay has been really good to us over the years,” said Seher.
Each program offered to students is directly linked to the school curriculum and grade level of each class. With a focus on place-based education, teachers have the opportunity to take students out in the field to learn from the experts.
Some of the programs are grasslands-related or wetlands-related; we’ve got other programs where we actually have someone in the Kimberly, Cranbrook area who conducts fossil tours (and takes) kids out to archaeologically significant areas,” said Seher.
The grant CBEEN received was a Discretionary Grant in Aid and will go towards covering field trip bussing costs and honorarium costs for the community educators based on how long their program was.
“Our hope in our fundraising endeavors is that we are able to provide every teacher in the basin with two free programs a year. That’s our aim. As funding permits, teachers have access to two programs free of charge,” said Seher.
The Wild Voices for Kids program for the 2015- 2016 school year reached 5,567 students through 70 field trips and 156 in class presentations. Fundraising to keep this non-profit program running is a big endeavor and the Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network is grateful for the support of RDEK. For more information on the Wild Voices for Kids programs and to create a teacher account, visit http://cbeen.ca.