What are some ways to engage youth?

Engaging with young people and sharing knowledge can be very satisfying and rewarding. You may witness youth enjoying themselves, testing their strengths, and gaining new knowledge about their lands, culture, and themselves.

Land-and-water-based learning programs can be built into school structures, after school clubs, health programming, summer internships within stewardship offices, and Guardian programs (to name a few!). 

Below are some ideas and tips on strategies that other communities have used to engage youth:

“In Lutsel Ke, every boat has a couple of kids in it and their role is to do nothing more than absorb and learn. Although it is informal, it's still called ‘nahatni dene’ or learn while doing. Folks with the program for 4-5 years have “graduated” but sometimes don’t have navigation skills or confidence so they go out to learn with more experienced senior land users.”

Steve Ellis, Tides Canada

“Every boat has a couple of kids in it and their role is to do nothing more than absorb and learn. Although it is informal we still..."


Youth Training Ideas and Training Providers

Here are some trainings you could organize for your youth:

  • Advanced snorkelling and harvesting / free diving (potential provider: Bottom Dwellers - Chris Adair)
  • Smokehouse Building - carpentry instructors
  • Naloxone training - (potential provider: BCCDC - Chee Mamuk)
  • Possessions and Acquisition License (PAL) - guns - legally possess (holding) and acquire (buy) weapon
  • Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Education (CORE) - hunting
  • Powersaw Operator Course - Basic Chainsaw
  • Basic Wilderness First Aid and Advanced Wilderness First Aid
  • Driver Training 
  • 20 x 24 Cedar Sided Cabin Building
  • Cedar weaving - http://www.authenticindigenous.com/artists/leonard-tiger-williams
  • Longhouse Style Sheltered Firepit Building
  • Log Cabin Building (potential provider: Buckshot - BC)
  • Navigation - Orienteering
  • Bear Aware (potential provider: Wildsafe BC)
  • Trip Planning (potential provider: AdventureSmart BC)
  • Search and Rescue
  • Small Vessel Operator Proficiency (SVOP)
  • Marine Emergency Duties A3 (teaches you what to do if your boat is sinking) 
  • Marine First Aid
  • Swift Water Rescue 
  • Restricted Operator Course-Marine (radio operator) - there's also an aeronautical version for pilots
  • Trail Building (potential provider: Patrick Lucas - Indigenous Youth Mountain Bike Association - https://www.plucascatalyst.com/youth-program)
  • Powerpoint and Microsoft Office
  • Consent Conversations
  • Gender Galaxy (potential provider: BCCDC)
  • Working on fatherhood
  • Tiny homes
  • Snowshoe making
  • Intro to canoe guiding (potential provider: Outward Bound)
  • Canoe and kayak safety training and trips: Jackpine Paddle - NWT (https://jackpinepaddle.com/local-partnerships/) 
  • Archery (potential provider: Curt Smecher - BC Archery)
  • Building successful youth programs for Indigenous youth workers (potential provider: 3-Fires - https://www.3-fires.com)
  • Trapping (potential provider: Tim Killed from BC Trapping Association)
  • Survival Camp (potential provider: Overhang out of Prince George)
  • Archaeology (potential provider: Wolf and Crow - Aaron Blake Evans)
  • Ethnobotany (potential providers: Fiona Chambers, Nancy Turner - Victoria BC)
  • Interviews around traditional use of certain areas or resources (potential provider: Firelight Group)
  • Photography - or droning and filming: (potential providers: smaller filming organizations or individuals: Moonlight, Moon and Fish Film Productions -based out of Vancouver BC)
  • Videography (potential provider: Tofino Wedding Videos)
  • Whale research / hydrophoning
  • Environmental DNA
  • Science and sailing (potential provider: Raincoast Conservation Society - science / education / research vessel called the Achiever)
  • Food security - Eat West Coast; and Second Harvest (secondharvest.ca)
  • Water First (https://waterfirst.ngo)
  • ACTUA (STEM workshops in community) - https://actua.ca
  • Strategic Planning - Alderhill (https://www.alderhill.ca)


Locations where you can host youth gatherings or get supplies

  • Cedar Coast Field Station (BC)
  • Coombs Rodeo Grounds and Fast Time Go-Carts (Vancouver Island, BC)
  • Cabela's (sports store) - have Mora knives
  • Lil'wat Outdoors School

Youth Training Ideas and Training Providers


Ideas for Involving Youth in your Guardian Program

Consider adding youth engagement to the planning phase of your guardian program. Think carefully about how and why you want to engage youth and build a plan to make it happen. Your plan should try to anticipate the time, staff resources, or budget needed to build bridges to the young members of your community.

Some ideas for involving youth in your Indigenous Guardians program include:

  1. Have guardians participate in career fairs, take-a-child-to-work days, youth gatherings, etc.
  2. Give presentations at schools on your work as a guardian. Prepare a slide show on ‘A Day in the Life of a Guardian’, share stories, bring in community experts and elders.
  3. Leave brochures or posters about your guardian program in schools and other places that youth gather.
  4. Have guardians be visible and in uniform at key community events like children’s celebrations, harvest festivals, Indigenous Day, etc.
  5. As part of your Indigenous Guardian program consider creating a "Junior Guardian" position to provide a youth with work experience or summer student employment.
  6. Provide formal opportunities for job shadowing or mentorships for young people interested in becoming guardians.
  7. Participate in fundraising activities for youth initiatives – donate a door prize, make food, provide transportation.
  8. Provide transportation and logistical support to youth activities such as school field trips, rediscovery camps, culture camps, canoe journeys, etc.
  9. Get youth involved in physical work that guardians are doing such as cleaning up significant cultural sites or campsites, building cabins, cutting hiking trails, etc.
  10. Set up a monitoring program for youth to participate in.
  11. Use tools such as social media, photography, video, GoPros, voice recording, drawing, crafting, writing, music, etc. to capture and share youth observations and experiences. See the story 'Grassy Narrows Youth - A Powerful Voice for the Land' for an inspiring youth video!

Ideas for Involving Youth in your Guardian Program


Creating Mentorship Opportunities Within Youth Programs


1. Remember to connect to your own mentors! It's easier to mentor others when you're being or have been mentored yourself. You can also set up mentorship opportunities for those you are asking to act as mentors.

2. Consider various forms of mentorship (e.g., adult-to-youth, youth-to-youth, youth-to-adult).

3. Bring a variety of mentors into your program - as Coordinator you don't have to know everything and can bring in others to share their perspectives and teachings.

4. Know youth's strengths and gifts so you can create opportunities for them to step into mentorship roles.

5. Create structures within your program to support mentorship (e.g., hire a combination of new and returning youth for internships, pair up younger and older youth during activities, etc.).

6. Celebrate and recognize mentors (e.g., award school credit or volunteer hours to youth mentors, provide honoraria, offer certificates or reference letters).

7. Remember one experience with a mentor can light a little spark in a youth even when you don't see it until years later.


Creating Mentorship Opportunities Within Youth Programs


Linking Youth Programs to School Curriculum and School Credits

Here are a few ways you can integrate on-the-land/water learning with the school system:

  1. Write curriculum - create your own course from scratch
  2. Link activities to existing curriculum happening in school during instructional time 
  3. List your on-the-land/water program on student transcripts / report cards
  4. Partner with other organizations that have a process for awarding course credits in place already

Here is more information on each option:

1. Write curriculum - create your own course from scratch

If you feel like none of the courses that exist in current school curriculum match closely enough with what you wants students to learn through your on-the-land/water program, you can create a new course.

For youth to get credit for this course, in BC it needs to go through a Board/Authority Authorized (BAA) Course approval process. Depending on whether you are a band school or a public school, this would be submitted to your school board or FNESC. Through this process, you may be able to get your course accredited so that youth receive an elective credit that counts toward their high school graduation requirements. 

In the Northwest Territories, you can create a Locally Developed Course (LDC) (see page 15-18 of this document for more info) with learning outcomes unique to what you are teaching through your on-the-land/water program. The Hunter Education course is an example of a LDC.

2. Link activities to existing curriculum happening in school during instructional time

There may be existing courses in your province or territory's curriculum that align with the learning outcomes of your on-the-land/water program. If this is the case, you may want to integrate your on-the-land/water program into students' existing classes (that they already get credit for) and timetable. You may be able to do this by connecting with classroom or subject-specific (e.g. Science) teachers.

Youth can participate in on-the-land/water programming as part of their Social Studies, Science, English Language Arts, Math, Art or other classes. Specialized Science is one course area in the BC curriculum with learning outcomes that might fit well with on-the-land/water programming.

If you choose this option as the On-the-Land/Water Program Coordinator, you might write a sentence or two on each student's report card comments for that subject area to communicate how they achieved the subject-specific outcomes through on-the-land/water learning that year. 

Some schools also offer on-the-land/water programs centred around learning about culture and territory through the Physical and Health Education courses available to high school students (e.g. running the program through the Outdoor Education 12 course).

Students may be able to get Work Experience credits if they do job shadowing through the program.

Volunteer hours could be another options to recognize youth.

3. List your on-the-land/water program on student transcripts / report cards

Even if youth don't get extra credits for participation in on-the-land/water programming, their work and learning can still be recognized on report cards / transcripts - e.g. as an extra-curricular activity. 

4. Partner with other organizations that have a process for awarding course credits in place already

There may be outdoor education organizations that already have processes in place for youth to gain school credits through participation in on-the-land/water programming.

Partnering with these organizations might help you award school credit to youth.

If you choose this route, it may be helpful to have a conversation with the organization before running your program around how students will be assessed and what type of reporting will be required for students to be awarded these credits. You likely will also want to clarify which credits students will receive and how many credits they will get. 


Linking Youth Programs to School Curriculum and School Credits

Community resource

Indigenous Land-Based Learning in the Era of Covid-19

This resource is from the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning. It includes 4 sections: navigating land-based education and pandemics in the North, removing the land from land-based education, queering Indigenous land-based education, and returning to the land during a time of great sickness.

Community resource

Indigenous Land-Based Learning in the Era of Covid-19