Educational programs are an essential requirement of all Global Geoparks. As the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark evolves, expanded educational activities for all ages and in all seasons will be developed, with the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation taking the anchor role. The 2015 museum budget includes a full time education co-ordinator position, to be augmented by more summer student positions. This will enable increased school programs and educational outreach, as well as web-based learning.
In the meantime, there is much that can be done to involve local students in the excitement of living in western North America’s first Global Geopark. Linda Helm is on the Geopark Committee, and attended the UNESCO Geoparks conference in Stonehammer, New Brunswick in September 2014. Based on what she learned there, she offered to create the Geopark Club for students at Tumbler Ridge Secondary School. The concept was enthusiastically endorsed by Mr Broderick and staff, and a result this club has been in operation for the past month.
Assisted by other adult volunteers, on Wednesday afternoons Linda takes students to Geosites of interest in the area, and provides information on Geoparks, and the history, relevance and geological context of the destination. The first event featured the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery, followed by field trips: cross country skiing up Flatbed Canyon to Flatbed Falls, snowshoeing to Quality Falls, and skiing to Lost Haven Cabin. A snowshoe trip to spectacular Bullmoose Falls is next on the agenda, followed by an expedition after spring break to the Titanic. When spring arrives it will be possible to accommodate greater student numbers as snowshoeing and skiing will be replaced by hiking.
From such beginnings it is hoped that students will play an active role and develop a sense of pride in and ownership of their Global Geopark. There are many ways in which elementary school students can become involved, and Tumbler Ridge Elementary can likewise play a leading role. Mrs Proulx and Mr Broderick have approached the Geopark Committee with further innovative ideas of student-driven projects that will enhance the experience for visitors to the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark.
I have no doubt that these one-step-at-a-time initiatives, driven by the passion of volunteers, educators and students, and carried through over years, will lead to great things for Tumbler Ridge.