Yukon, Canada program incorporates trapping, aboriginal culture into curriculum

Outdoor activities are an important part of the CHAOS program. (Courtesy Chris Hobbis and Adria Collins)
Outdoor activities are an important part of the CHAOS program. (Courtesy Chris Hobbis and Adria Collins)
Trapping, hiking and cooking over a fire.

These aren’t the kinds of activities most Canadian students encounter as part of their high school curriculum.

But a unique program in Canada’s northwestern Yukon territory is changing that, by incorporating First Nations history and culture into a special semester-long course.

The Community, Heritage, Adventure, Outdoors and Skills program, known by its acronym CHAOS, is now in its fourth year.

Learning from doing

The program uses activities like trapping to teach everything from practical skills to business know-how. It also offers special field trips that involve spending up to 10 days out on the land.

“The hands on approach is really an important aspect,” said Chris Hobbis, a CHAOS instructor and teacher at the Wood Street School in Whitehorse, the capital city of Yukon, Canada.

“It’s a major draw for students. We get a different type of learning and accomplishment.”

‘The hardest part is leaving’

Chris Fairclough, a Grade 10 student, says the program is tough and challenging, but that’s what makes it such an attraction for students.

“It’s just a good life experience ,” Fairclough said. “It would be hard to gain the same experience somewhere else.”

I spoke with CHAOS teacher Chris Hobbis and CHAOS student Chris Fairclough earlier this week to find out more about the program:

Related Links:

VIDEO: Visit an Arctic College class in Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, Eye on the Arctic

Canada’s Inuit Leaders Unveil Education Strategy, CBC News

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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