homeschool day – from Caribou to Coffee


We spent Monday with a group of energetic and enthusiastic Yukon Homeschool kids on two learning outings. It was a great way to start the week and luckily the weather was in our favour – big blue skies and only -8c when we started off.

YWP sign

Our morning was spent at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve where the kids participated in either the grade 7 program on Caribou or the grade 2 program on Surviving in the Winter.  I had the pleasure of being the parent support for the grade 7 program (a relative guidepost for homeschool kids – we had a range from Grade 5 to Grade 8) and it was fun to watch the learning in action.

After sharing a First Nation story about the spirit of Caribou, we all went off to the field and learned how to use atlatl’s, which were primitive spears used during group hunts. They definitely are not the tool you want for solo hunting as they aren’t that precise and the concept is to barrage the animal, knock them down and then finish them off with a knife or other sharp tool. We spent at least half an hour doing this and the kids could have gone on for hours…

caribou boots

Next on the program was learning to track Caribou. For this we got to go right into the Caribou enclosure, which was quite a treat. Everyone had to boot up to ensure that we weren’t bringing in any foreign substances on the bottom of our boots. Fortunately or unfortunately, a chunk of the Caribou herd happened to be up near the fence, which meant we didn’t really have to do any tracking so there was less learning in that area. The plus side was that we were within 100 feet of a number of Caribou and got to see some rack banging and herd management behaviour by the male Caribou.

We spent 45 minutes walking around in the Caribou enclosure, observing the animals from a distance, looking for signs of antler shedding, discussing traffic patterns and learning about animal poop…

learning in the enclosure

It was interesting how the animals were curious about us but certainly didn’t come close enough to make us feel uncomfortable. We were observing them and they were observing us. Overall we spent 2.5 hours learning about Caribou and probably could have kept going for at least another hour. The kids were engaged and curious – the benefits of a small group.

We took advantage of being at the Wildlife Preserve to check out some of the other animals. We got lucky and the Lynx family had just been fed so we spotted all 4 of them sitting out – most of the time they are tucked back into their rock enclosure or hiding under some logs. The Mountain Goats were also out enjoying some sunshine.

coffee bags

After a quick bite to eat our next stop was at Bean North, a small Fair Trade coffee roaster that is just down the road from the Wildlife Preserve. Michael, one of the owners, gave us an educational overview of where coffee is grown, the economics of it, why they support the concepts of Fair Trade and how important coffee is to the farmers that they work with. Geography, Food Science & Economics all rolled into one!

We were excited to learn that they grow coffee beans in both Mexico and Ecuador – places we are headed this winter. Maybe we’ll be able to check out a coffee farm on our travels and see how labour intensive it is ourselves. Michael shared that normally 8 hands touch a coffee bean before the bean makes it to him. We also learned that Kona, Jamaican and Costa Rican coffee isn’t necessarily better – it’s just more expensive because of the cost of labour in those markets and the marketing people have done a great job positioning it as a premium product to maintain profit margins.

coffee sealingOur last stop was the roasting area where we saw the roasting machines, the grinders and the sealers. Hunter was very excited to get to use the sealing machine and be part of the process.

When ever we get out and about to do learning in action it re-enforces for me all the benefits we experienced road schooling last year. It is so much more effective than sitting at home at a desk doing a workbook or reading a text book. I was thrilled to see Hunter asking questions and really curious about different components of the day. I’m excited about our travels to come this winter! We kicked off our Ecuador country study work today so we will be well informed and very curious when we get there in late December.

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