The ocean, the trees, the mountains. Those are the first major differences that jumped out to students from Sir John Franklin High School in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, making a return visit to Chemainus Secondary School students through an Experiences Canada trip.
Just as the Chemainus students were captivated by the Northern Lights and a totally different way of life during their excursion to Yellowknife earlier this year, the unfamiliar natural elements of beauty on the B.C. coast held allure for the Yellowknife group.
There were 15 students from Yellowknife who joined 20 others from Chemainus for a jam-packed agenda of tours and learning from each other Wednesday through Monday.
Shellie Trimble, who formerly taught at Chemainus Secondary for many years, has been at Sir John Franklin High School since November of 2014. Trimble and Sue Baker of Chemainus Secondary kept in contact and made the arrangements to give students at both schools a unique experience.
The Sir John Franklin school is about twice the size of Chemainus Secondary.
“I like it,” said Trimble. “It’s very different, of course, up there. It’s very, very culturally diverse.”
She was surprised to find there are nine officially recognized languages in the region. “I didn’t expect that when I went up there,” Trimble conceded.
The Yellowknife kids enjoyed hosting the Chemainus group previously and were long looking forward to their chance to come here.
“I think what this is going to do for them is show them the Haida culture and Coast Salish,” said Trimble.
“And just the geography. It’s very different geographically. For them, it’s going to be a lot more urban – the exposure of the busier population.”
The students had a busy schedule, meeting at Kin Park in Chemainus and Ladysmith’s Transfer Beach Thursday, going to Coombs and Cathedral Grove Friday, the Royal B.C. Museum and Chinatown in Victoria Saturday, the Kinsol Trestle and the Raptors in Duncan Sunday and flying home Monday.
Grade 12 student Laylu Judas has been to Nanaimo and Ladysmith before, but not to Chemainus.
“I’ve always liked B.C., the trees, the salty ocean and everything,” she said.
“I asked Mrs. Trimble why she moved and she said ‘it’s because I love the students.’”
Judas is from Wekweeti, a village of only about 130 people 45 minutes away from Yellowknife by plane.
“Everyone for high school, they have to move out of other small communities to Yellowknife,” she explained.
Grade 10 student Angelina Arrowmaker comes from the same village, but also has Filipino roots and has been to the Philippines many times.
“British Columbia is my favourite place,” she said. “I want to go to university on the Island or Vancouver – a dream come true.”
Arrowmaker said she was enjoying the trip. “I feel it’s a great way to connect with other people.”
Grade 9 student Jaylen Base-Smith, who grew up in Yellowknife, has never been to B.C. before.
“I think it’s really nice,” he said. “Compared to where I’ve been, it’s more tropical, I guess. Just seeing the mountains and the ocean and the tall trees, everything’s so much greener here.”
Back home, it’s approaching 24 hours of daylight, Base-Smith added. “It’s hard to sleep at night. It’s not really night – it’s still day.”
Sir John Franklin, he said, “it’s a really good school. There’s lots of space and there’s a whole bunch of opportunities there.”
Matteo Ashley, another Grade 9 student, said he’s been here many times. He plays High Performance basketball outside of school.
“It’s better than at home,” Ashley said.
“I’ve driven through here, just never stopped and stayed,” noted Grade 9 student Matthew Patzer from Yellowknife.
“It’s pretty good. It’s fun to explore different places and stuff – meet new people.”