A recent letter to the editor published in the Toronto Star highlighted the importance of outdoor education and signalled some alarm bells about cuts to in-school and residential outdoor education programs across the province in this period of funding constraint.
As President of the Bluewater Education Foundation, this letter creates an opportunity to remind the citizens of Grey and Bruce counties about our approach to support for outdoor education.
Since the early 1970s, over 170,000 students in Grey and Bruce have had a unique outdoor education opportunity at the Bluewater Outdoor Education Centre, a residential facility outside of Wiarton.
This centre was established and has been sustained over its 40 years in existence with a unique relationship between the Bluewater District School Board and our Foundation, a yolunteer based organization focused on raising funds to ensure access for students to opportunities at the centre in high quality facilities. Over the past decades, over a million dollars has been donated by generous private sector donors who share the foundation’s mission.
We believe that a partnership approach between the School Boards and community volunteers is the right model to ensure that facilities like the Bluewater Outdoor Education Centre don’t succumb to ongoing budget pressures. ln a time when tough decisions are being made on education budgets, our Foundation has redoubled its fundraising efforts and are actively looking for ways to become more self- sustaining. An example of this is our 2019 Summer Eco Camps, trial education-based day camps. We are also considering how to provide other opportunities for families and companies who wish to learn and experience nature to come to the site for use of the facility or for program. Our goal is to provide additional education opportunities in our community while generating income to ensure our children are still able to attend the residential school programs.
With societal concerns about climate change and sustainability and with mounting evidence about the negative impacts of sedentary and “screen based” lifestyles on the physical and mental health of young people, we believe that the mission of the Centre is more important than ever.
The support of the community, business and the public has been very generous in making our facility world class. We’d welcome input on the future of the Centre and are calling on local business and individuals to think about outdoor education when you’re thinking about investment in our community.
lf you have ideas, if you would like to help our board, if you would like to donate, or if you would like to volunteer – please contact us. This is a time of discovery for our Foundation. Our belief in the importance of Outdoor Education for our children will drive us to find a solution.
Find out more about us on our website at www.bluewater-edfoundation.org or contact Ron Mottram 519 389 3993.