As the boat containing my fellow Raincoast colleagues and I drew near the Koeye River, memories of the last time I was here, nearly five years ago (at age fourteen), began to return. As a first year engineering student and volunteer with Raincoast, I looked forward to the following days I’d be spending with Doug, Kyle and Heather, sharing our knowledge of the environment with the children at the camp.
Upon our arrival at the Koeye Lodge, I was under the impression that the next morning would be fairly relaxed, running activities and assisting the counselors. Therefore I was quite surprised to find myself waking up early and preparing for a five hour canoe paddle to Hakai. After a quick breakfast, the campers and I climbed into the twelve person canoe and began the journey. Doug piloted one of the two support boats accompanying the canoe, while Heather and Kyle remained at Koeye to do some activities with the campers staying behind. The paddle was longer than any I’ve done in the past, but with the help of support boats beside us and the motivation of the skipper, the paddle seemed to go by very quickly. Fatigue set in as we neared our destination, so it was helpful to remember that many years ago, the Heiltsuk people would frequently make this paddle in search of shellfish without the help of support boats.
When we arrived, I was amazed by the beauty of the area. The perfect sandy beach spread out to either side, and the blue-green waves curled near the shores beneath the cloudless sky. The new owners of the nearby lodge were also very friendly, even transporting our bags to the beach for us. I was impressed by all they’ve done to the place, even installing a reverse-osmosis system. After allowing the campers to frolic on the beaches for a bit, Doug and I gathered everyone together for some activities. They included a web game to test their knowledge of ecosystems, an island biogeography game to demonstrate why larger islands have a greater variety of species, and a foraging game to discuss the differences between specialist and generalist species. Having never led a group of campers before, and having less knowledge of the ecology of the area than the other “Raincoasters”, I admit I felt a little nervous at first to be leading the activities we had planned, however having Doug at my side was certainly reassuring. Plus, the kids were so friendly and eager to participate that I found myself enjoying leading the activities as much as they enjoyed participating in them!
After we returned to Koeye, Doug and I joined with Heather and Kyle to assist with some more activities. I have to say, the creativity behind some of the educational games really impressed me. Kyle led an activity involving a hook attached to three ropes suspended by pulleys, which were then controlled by the campers in an effort to catch a bucket. The purpose: to demonstrate how wolves use teamwork to catch their prey. Heather meanwhile had the kids playing a game with fish crackers, an excellent pre-lunch game, to show the affects of overfishing and the importance of only taking what you need. Doug had a third group of kids on the beach, showing them how to make a plaster cast of animal tracks.
At the end of our stay we tested the campers on what they had learned. I was amazed at how much information they retained and how eager they were to answer (with a little motivation from prizes of course)! It gives me hope to see these kids still enjoy themselves in nature in an age so dominated by technology. As it becomes more crucial to resolve the world’s environmental issues, it will fall to young people like these campers (and even myself) to try and resolve them.