Sage is a traditional medicine used to heal the spirit. That is why the SAGE Program at Canmore Collegiate High School (CCHS) is so aptly named. The Stoney Group Adventure Experience is a partnership between CCHS and Outward Bound Canada. Our goal is to improve the high school completion rates of FNMI students who attend our school. High School completion rates for First Nation, Metis and Inuit learners are very low in Alberta and very low at Canmore Collegiate High School. SAGE is a year long intervention program for FNMI high school students. We use the mountains as a classroom to teach resiliency, self confidence and leadership by using Outward Bound Canada as the guides and outfitters for our adventure. We go on three backcountry expeditions throughout the school year to challenge the participants to learn about themselves and discover their potential. We travel in traditional Stoney/Nakoda territory developing a re-connection to the land by travelling through the mountains. We are sent out with Elders blessing and the students form strong relations with each other as they continue to travel together throughout their high school experience.
As a former Outward Bound instructor, I know the power of adventure education. I would guide multi-week expeditions for Aboriginal youth and develop powerful relationships with my students. After the 21 day trip was over, we'd say goodbye as the students would travel back to their homes across the country. With SAGE, we go through the powerful outdoor experience but I stay with them for their high school career, supporting their learning and helping them overcome obstacles that arise over their journey. With elements of adventure education, experiential education, cultural reconnection, mentorship and role modelling, the intent is to develop students who can survive and thrive in their academic careers and personal lives. My time with Outward Bound Canada shaped my educational philosophies and I knew the power of the land. This inspired myself and Julian Norris of Outward Bound Canada to create SAGE at Canmore Collegiate. This is our third year and we've seen improvements in attendance by 14% and increased core subject grades by 8.2% over non-SAGE students, the difference is dramatic. Our high school improvements have improved significantly since our program began in 2008. We've had our high school completion rate for FNMI learners improve by 400%. This year we are expecting our highest graduation rate. We feel SAGE is making a difference.