The scope of historical discovery in the West Kootenay is learned best through hands-on experiences. Imagine learning the stories directlyfrom the history writers and following the trails of the past. Waterfalls, waterways, hot springs, valleys, and villages were all on show as the Seven Summits Centre for Learning students travelled the West Kootenay Historic Loop during a recent Social Studies field trip.
“Learning alongside these incredible young people, through their experiences and connections to our home, is always the best part of this three-day history road trip,” said Jonny Coleshill, their Humanities teacher. “The Grades 10 and 11 were on tour to learn history up close and in real time.”
For the seventh year in a row, the school travelled for three daysand two nights around the 570-km West Kootenay Historic Loop. Starting in the Golden City of Rossland, they headed to Castlegar.The students stopped at the Doukhobor Discovery Centre, rich in history and culture. Next, they continued up the scenic Slocan Valley. Stopping at a Sinixt village site in Lemon Creek, the students learned how Indigenous people used nature as food and medicine.
“We started by giving a blessing to the elders by throwing pine needles, roots and dried flowers into the lake. It was very peaceful,” says Hope van der Zouwe, a Grade 10 student. “The lesson was very emotionally awakening.”
Continuing on, the group followed the compass of discovery up the valley that previously housed thousands of hopeful prospectors and miners who once flocked to find their wealth and fortune.
Students learned about the waterways from touring up the Slocan Lake, around Trout Lake, and down Kootenay Lake, all the while studying the human and natural history of the area. Magnificent waterfalls at Wilson Creek Falls and the naturally heated mineral pools of Nakusp Hot Springs all added depth and liquidity to their knowledge. They learned about Duncan Dam, the confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers in Castlegar, the Columbia River Treaty, and gained an appreciation for the natural and human history along the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers. Students added to the experiences at each stop, with well-prepared project presentations that they shared with their peers on location.
In New Denver, the students visited the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre to learn the story of thousands of Canadians from Japanese descent who were interned during World War II. Their next stop was Sandon, one of British Columbia’s legendary ghost towns, where they experienced the historical museum showcasing the silver rush of the 1800s. Finally, the group stopped at Trout Lake to check out the Windsor Hotel, which was first established in 1892. This day started in ghost towns and was topped off with an overnight stay at the haunted Windsor Hotel - to be “taken care of” by the original owner, the late Ms. Alice Jowett. Since it first opened its doors, the Hotel has hosted thousands of guests including British Royalty, gold miners, dream chasers, and outdoor adventurers.
The final day of the trip offered a stop in the Village of Kaslo, home to the S.S. Moyie, the world’s oldest intact passenger sternwheeler, now sitting on the shores of Kootenay Lake. Continuing down the Kootenay waterway, the group celebrated the creativity, history, and vibe of the historic City of Nelson as their final attraction. Described as the jewel of the Kootenay Rockies, Nelson was started in the silver mining days but today is well documented as one of the ‘Best Small Art Communities.’
Finally, after three days and two nights on a magical history tour, the students headed back to their mountain home in Rossland.
“We are so fortunate to be hosted by incredible people, speakers, and interpreters, in locations such as the Doukhobor Discovery Center, a Sinixt village site in Lemon Creek, New Denver’s Nikkei Internment Memorial, the Sandon Museum and Powerhouse, and the S.S. Moyie in Kaslo,” says Coleshill. “A trip like this would not be complete without the Lardeau River and the Dr. John Fenger Memorial / Cedar Trail.”
Students are fortunate at Seven Summits Centre for Learning to have these dynamic learning experiences. It also benefits educators to get to know their students better. Unique learning opportunities such as this tour bring history to life in a way that textbooks never will.