Teach the Columbia Field Course

Applications are NOW OPEN for the 2023 Teach the Columbia Field Course! 

Educators, it’s your turn to learn! With a master canoe instructor as your guide, you’ll paddle and explore the Columbia River over this three day field trip. Learn new course material in a fun and welcoming environment alongside other educators interested in this amazing watershed we call home.

Recognizing the importance of National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on Sept 30th, our second annual Teach the Columbia Field Course focuses on the need to bring Truth and Reconciliation learning into our teachings, with a specific emphasis on the Columbia River.

This condensed Columbia River Field School, three-day, two-night adventure immerses you in the geography, history, ecology, hydrology, politics, economics and more of the Columbia River Basin. We’ll workshop Wildsight’s suite of curriculum-based resources: Teach the Columbia, so you can take any or all of these 11 lesson plans back to your students with confidence this coming year.

You’ll meet other educators interested in Columbia River Basin issues, and together we’ll build a community of practice.

Dates: Saturday, Sept. 30—Monday, Oct. 2

Location:  Near Castlegar along the Arrow Lakes Reservoir. Participants will need to travel independently to the start location, but we will help organize carpooling and shuttle everyone back to their vehicles after taking out from the river. The course will start in the mid-morning on September 30th, and conclude mid-afternoon on October 2nd. Participants will receive detailed information covering all logistical matters.

Participants: Teach the Columbia curriculum is mostly geared towards high school teachers, but we welcome educators with other grades and roles, including non-formal educators in the Columbia Basin.

Cost: $300

Teach the Columbia and this field course are made possible by the generous support of our funders. To help cover a minor portion of trip costs, we ask that participants pay a course fee of $300.

Financial aid available if necessary. All food, canoes, and specialized gear for the trip will be provided.

“The knowledge we gained about the Columbia Basin was extensive; we had amazing networking opportunities to discuss different lessons done by other teachers in their classrooms. This is hands down the best Pro D I have experienced.” – Rebecca Lewis, educator at ʔaq̓amnik̓ Elementary School


Please note that space is limited. Some spots will be reserved for educators already using the Teach the Columbia Curriculum to support ongoing growth. We may also select participants to ensure a diverse geographic spread as well as to include a range of grade levels/ages and subject areas. We will endeavour to let you know if there is a spot available for you as soon as we can and will aim to give all interested people adequate notice.


Meet your instructors:

Roger Warnatsch:

Roger is dedicated to all things canoeing and outdoors. He is a certified Master Canoe Instructor, the Instructor Coordinator of the Recreation Canoeing Association of BC (RCABC), and has taught canoeing and outdoor leadership as a career for many programs (college, university, outdoor leadership, high school, etc.) throughout BC. He enjoys getting people of all ages out on the water and thriving in our magnificent outdoor environment. He has taught and guided extensively in BC, but has also paddled, instructed or guided in Mexico, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon and the NWT.

Monica Nissen:

A passion for the wilderness and a gift for teaching have drawn Monica into the field of environmental education where she has worked both inside and outside the classroom.  With a background in outdoor leadership as an Outward Bound instructor and through hiking and ski guiding, she has spent the last 20 years developing and delivering educational programs that inspire the next generation of stewards of the Earth. As a certified BC teacher and the Education Director at Wildsight, Monica and her team of educators have delivered environmental education programs to over 90,000 students throughout the Columbia Basin. Monica has worked on curriculum development for the renewed BC Science curriculum, and serves as an instructor with UBC’s West Kootenay Teacher Education Program. She is committed to supporting educators in building place-conscious practice. 

Graeme Lee Rowlands:

Graeme manages Wildsight’s Columbia River Field School and Youth Climate Corps programs. He is passionate about the relationships that underpin the ways we make decisions about rivers and the climate. Graeme was born in Honduras, raised in California and has since lived across the Pacific Northwest. He first came to the upper Columbia watershed in 2017 while on a 35 day bike and kayak journey up the Columbia River from sea-to-source. He is now based in Golden but enjoys visiting familiar places and faces across the region. Graeme’s written work on the Columbia River Treaty, salmon restoration, colonization and Truth and Reconciliation, climate change, and related topics has appeared in over 50 publications. He has worked on the same with dozens of organizations across the international Columbia River Basin.

Shelly Boyd:

Shelly Boyd is the Territory Land Advisor for the Sinixt Confederacy of the Colville Tribes, of the Arrow Lakes. Born in Kewa (near Inchelium), Shelly grew up under the leadership of her Tupa (great grandmother), who like her parents are descendants of the Sinixt  people. Shelly holds a BA in Indian Studies and a Masters in Education. Shelly spent nearly 20 years working with the Inchelium School District on the Colville Reservation and The Medicine Wheel Academy of Spokane, working with Native Youth. Following which, she co-founded the Inchelium Language and Culture Association, (ILCA) a non-profit with the mission to revitalize the Sinixt language and culture.


Any questions, contact Graeme or Monica today. 

The summer of 2022, we hosted our inaugural Teach the Columbia Field Course. Designed for educators, this course took participants on a literal and figurative journey through the Columbia River. We workshopped Teach the Columbia curriculum, gathered valuable feedback to continue improving our offerings, and enjoyed sharing time together celebrating the Columbia River watershed in its end-of-summer glory.

To stay informed on future opportunities or access the full curriculum package, sign up for our Teach the Columbia updates

“Learning about the Columbia while on the Columbia provided such powerful context…It moved us to care even more because we were experiencing what we were learning. The pro-D also provided such rich interdisciplinary learning and connected me with other like-minded educators,” says Carly Christy, South Slocan middle school teacher. “Being immersed in this place, with this experience, has given me a more comprehensive experience.”

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A journey beyond recycling

September 26, 2023
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