By Julia Magsombol 

Local Journalism Initiative

Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network (CBEEN) recently gathered with local educators for the 2023 ‘Inquiring Voices’ professional development day for teachers. 

“This gathering aims to bring environmental educators together to strengthen the connections among themselves within the network of CBEEN that would last long after they leave the gathering,” said Sanne van der Ros, the Inquiring Voices event coordinator. 

The three-day collaboration at Blue Lake Camp on Oct. 19-21 saw educators from Golden, Nelson, Edgewood, Revelstoke, Cranbrook, Kimberley (k’aqawakanmituk in Ktunaxa language), Castlegar, Fernie, ?aq’am, Canal Flats, Elkford, Crowsnest Pass, Creston, and Windermere.

“The experience of gathering in person at Blue Lake Camp was amazing. Being able to sense each other’s energy and share the space for several days made for a special feeling of connectedness and community,” van der Ros said. “Meeting in person helped develop relationships among educators across the Basin who can support one another, even from a distance, if they don’t live in the same area. I would describe it as magical; magic happens when you bring passionate people together to connect, share, and learn from one another, given enough time and the right setting.”

The meeting included orientation, activities, ceremonies, networking and awards.

van der Ros also said that the main point of the gathering is that the attendees work actively on improving their teaching through the sharing of best practices in environmental education among educators — this happens through the ‘Open Spaces’ sessions, a five-minute sharing session and conversations throughout the educators’ time together. 

“The understanding is that the best nuggets of learning and inspiration often come from the informal conversations at a conference and the connections you make,” she added. 

van der Ros noted that 33 educators met and seven received awards. 

One of the educators who received the Indigenous Educator Award was Alfred Joseph from the Ktunaxa Nation and the past chief of the Akisqnuk Nation. He spoke about the importance of revitalizing the Ktunaxa language.

 She said the event has a partnership with the Outdoor Learning Store, which supports the gathering financially.

The collaboration was inspired by a similar event held at Sea to Sky Outdoor School on the Sunshine Coast. 

Monica Nissen, Wildsight’s Education Director and CBEEN member, was one of the convenors of the first ‘Voices’ event in the Columbia Basin in 2007. The goal of the event is to bring educators together to form learning communities that will help education move forward. 

“I felt grateful to see it all come together so well after a couple of years of planning,” van der Ros said. “ It is amazing to be part of building a network of education professionals who can support one another as they do their important work.”