Our overnight adventure on Galiano Island!

Recently, 20 students from Shawnigan Lake had an amazing overnight adventure on Galiano Island. They were the recipients of the Sustainability Leadership Prize, a prize created to get secondary students out of the classroom and experiencing hands-on learning.

The overnight camp took place on Galiano Island, which is a Gulf Island off the shore of Vancouver Island. Galiano hosts a large variety of animals and plants, and hundreds of birds, since it is located in a major migratory flight path. Offshore, whales, seals, otters and other varieties of sea life can often be spotted.

The trip started with the students ferrying over from Vancouver Island. They landed at Sturdies Bay in Galiano at noon, where they were picked up by the Galiano Conservancy Association, who would be running the afternoons programs. This year, we would be participating in a program called Marine Investigations.

After a short drive, we were at Montague Harbour, where we stopped to have lunch before the activities began. Once that had all been packed away, we skipped down to a nearby dock, and the afternoon activities began!

To start, the GCA Educators taught us how to catch marine creatures that lived on or around the dock. We had no idea there were so many creatures living on the dock! Sea stars, urchins, tube worms and nudibranchs were just a small sample of the creatures we caught. After a creature was caught, it was placed in a small oceanwater-filled jar so all the students could observe it. Once enough creatures had been caught, the GCA Educators began a ‘Teaching Train’, where the students became the teachers, showing each other the creatures they had caught, and explaining all the fascinating things they had learned about them. We also used an underwater camera to film below the docks.

After all the students had taught each other about their creatures, they were all gently placed back in the water, and we had a snack break. The GSA Educators pulled all the footage we had filmed, and showed us the best of it while we ate. It was so cool to see the creatures we had been looking in their natural underwater habitats!

Once we were done eating, it was time for the second half of the afternoon activities. We strolled down to Shell Beach, a gorgeous beach made entirely out of (you guessed it!) shells! The students were given five minutes to contemplate how such a beach could come about. Where did they come from? Why are they all here? After their contemplation, everyone gathered around to share their best ideas. While there were some great ideas, we didn’t manage to touch on the truth – that the beach used to be a First Nations midden. Historically, middens have bee known as dumps for domestic waste, but historians have realized this area was very important to the First Nations communities who used to live here. It is estimated that the First Nations community used Shell beach for cooking and depositing leftover shells for over 3000 years.

Having learned about a bit of Galiano’s rich history, the students moved on, journeying along the shoreline to catch, identify and release a remarkable diversity of animals, including worms, mussels, barnacles and a wide variety of crabs, including a couple huge red rock crabs.

Finally, it was time to head to the campground and set up camp. After some warm goodbyes to the GCA Educators, we piled onto the bus and drove to the campground further down the island.  

Students quickly set up their tent before breaking into groups to determine who would be cooking dinner versus cleaning. The cooking team quickly whipped up a fantastic meal of spaghetti, with both a vegetarian and non-vegetarian option. The night ended with a campfire and free time for the students to decompress and enjoy the campsite.

The next day, most people woke up to the sounds of birds chirping. The previous day had been grey and overcast, but the sun was out in full force on this morning! Students dried their dewy tents, ate breakfast and packed up just in time for the GCA bus to come pick them up and drive them to catch their ferry. It was an amazing trip, and we can't wait to bring a new class next year.

To win your own overnight adventure on Galiano Island, submit your classroom's green story to BC Green Games!