This school year, over 5,000 K-12 students in the Columbia Basin will venture beyond the walls of their classroom, where they will deepen their knowledge of the natural world with help from local mentors as part of the Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network’s (CBEEN) Wild Voices program.

For ten years, Wild Voices presentations and field studies have helped Basin students to better understand their natural environment, and to improve their relationship with it. Wild Voices has welcomed new educators and new programs in 2018-2019, including field studies in French and English, programs on Indigenous Worldviews and Climate Change.

Wild Voices is available in the Columbia Basin’s six School Districts (5, 6, 8, 10, 19 and 20) and all of the regions independent schools and homeschool programs. With a current CBEEN membership, teachers can access one program booking per year at no cost to their class. Unlimited programs are available at subsidized rates to all teachers. Teachers have attested that programs make their students’ learning contextual, “relating what they have learned in school to real life experiences” (Tanya Kerkhoven, FJ Mitchell Elementary); and that their students have shown to be “more connected and observant of their local space” (Anniah Lang, The Whole School) after participating in Wild Voices.

Beyond its direct contributions to science learning, environmental education has proven to support students’ creativity, enhance critical and analytical thinking, build leadership skills and encourage equality and collaboration among classmates: 21st century skills that are critical for youth entering adulthood. Alongside programs provided by CBEEN partners Wildsight and other local stewardship groups, Wild Voices ensures that quality environmental learning is an integral part of each Basin student’s K-12 education.

Wild Voices programs are made available to Basin students through the generous support of major funders Columbia Basin Trust, NSERC, BCHydro, FortisBC, Government of BC, and BC Parks. Thank you to the supporting funders that contribute to programs locally, including: RDEK, RDCK, CSRD, Foord Family Foundation, Science World, Canfor, Hamber Foundation, Kimberley Alpine Resort, Kimberley and District Community Foundation, Columbia Valley Community Foundation, Community Fund of North Kootenay Lake, Nelson and District Credit Union, District of Invermere and the cities of Fernie and Rossland.

To learn more about Wild Voices environmental learning opportunities for K-12 students, please visit: cbeen.ca/wildvoices.

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