Kelowna Secondary School media teacher Jonathan Derksen is taking students on a trip of a lifetime.
Derksen, along with nine others, are travelling to Yellowstone National Park this summer to expand their media knowledge by creating their own documentaries.
Organized by non-profit Ecology Project International, the students will test their media skills by following field biologists as they study bears, bison and wolves in the park.
They’ll be off the grid, camping, filming and at the end of the excursion, enjoying white-water river rafting.
“It’s pretty empowering for these guys,” said Derksen. “How do animals in this environment adapt to an area that’s so geologically active?”
The idea started from a project last year, when students visited an animal rescue shelter in Bolivia and recorded footage for short micro-documentaries.
“It’s not a field trip. It’s students that actually are crew and you need to be able to rely on them as adults,” said Derksen.
This year, a mix of graduates from KSS, current students and a few others will create their own individual projects in various forms of media, whether it’s writing, filming, or photography. All of the project’s will be centred around conservation.
“How do we use our media skills towards the conservation end? It’s something I wanted to do for a long time,” said Derksen, who has worked for National Geographic and Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet.
He also plans to produce a mini-documentary on the students’ experience.
As part of the crew, this will be recent KSS graduates Devon Nagle and Kenzie Gorjanc’s first time in Yellowstone National Park.
“I’m pretty excited… we get to go past public lines,” said Nagle, who is focusing on photography and writing for the trip.
Nagle was a student and teacher’s assistant in Derksen’s class. She’s attending the University of Toronto in the fall for criminology, but she considers journalism as her plan B.
“I’ve always had an interest in journalism and photography and it was a cool class,” she said.
Her parents loved the park, so they encouraged Nagle to attend the expedition and she’s looking forward to studying the wolves.
Gorjanc is also interested in documenting wolves and carries a passion for travel journalism.
“I’ve always been an outdoorsy person. I love backpacking. In the past few years I’ve seen so much change in B.C. just with people disrespecting nature and damage happening to it. I want to see Yellowstone before it’s too late. I want to get a better understanding of the place and see it for what it is,” said Gorjanc.
She has an interest in writing, which will be the focus of her project. The trip cost $2,300 for Gorjanc which doesn’t include travel expenses as the trip is not funded by the high school.
For Derksen, he aims to go above the student/teacher relationship.
“That’s how I grew up, with educators that really saw the relationship as beyond teacher, but much more mentorship-oriented,” he said.
While working in boarding schools in India, he said he had more influence on the students as a mentor, something he’s carried over to his teaching at KSS.
“We got to see where they took those talents, part of it was the students were always at the school, but I had a much more uncle-like role, which I miss coming back to Canada,” said Derksen.
“I thought what’s a way we can build that mentor foundation in a B.C. school system.”
Watch the student’s previous adventures on YouTube by searching ArtofAdventure.
The group will spend time in the park from Aug. 1 to 9.