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An Ice Storm as a Teambuilder, 1 Year Later …

December 21, 2014

finlayson ice storm

Lovely sight isn’t it? It is often said in outdoor education that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing choices. Let me tell you about a time this was not the case.

Last year on this day I travelled into work extremely cautiously as the roads were not in great shape. A few branches were down and icy conditions were the news of the day. My typical 25 minute drive on country roads was closer to 40 minutes in the slick conditions. I typically get to the site I am based out of around 6:30 in the morning so it was still dark.

When I arrived at the front gate of the Jack Smythe Field Centre I could tell that our largest outdoor education centre in the Peel District School Board was not in great shape. Immediately, I saw that I would not be able to drive in due to trees upon the roadway and right over top of the gate. In fact, in many areas there were so many limbs and full trees down that you could not see the roadway at all and it was only the downed hydro wires that gave any evidence that there was a roadway at all in some sections.

2013-12-23 09.00.16

I took a number of photos and sent a HaikuDeck of the devastation to the staff, most of whom where already on vacation for the winter break. By seeing the damage in the format I sent it was pretty obvious that programming could not run as we had expected for much of the winter.

It ended up being even worse than we thought. Trees were bent over, broken and the entire trail and roadways were impassible. This YouTube video will show you what it was like that day as I attempted to walk the trails. I suggest you turn the sound up as in the backround you’ll hear quite the eerie sound.

After a number of days with maintenance not even being able to get in with generators I went in on Boxing Day and brought any animals still alive to my house for the rest of the break. It must have been a sight with aquarium fish, corn snakes and more all stacked and tied onto an all-terrain sled as I trekked over fallen trees in the snow from the cold building to the front gate.

We still have not opened up all our trails a year later. However this is a good news post nonetheless.

First our sugar shack was not impacted – though it looked as if there was a giant bird’s nest of debris around it. Our forest needed the break after this – a chance to bounce back from the damage and we did our part in considering the sustainability of our trees as they are our teaching partners.

2013-12-23 08.46.48

In the end perhaps only four days of programming were truly cancelled at this site and that is thanks to the outstanding maintenance department within my Board and as well to staff I work with at the Peel Field Centres. The countless hours of trail maintenance and program modifications made by my own staff made an unbelievable difference. Even to this day a year later we are not finished cleaning up the debris yet.  However, the ice storm of 2013, while not one of the worst, did a wonderful job of showing a team’s ability to raise to a challenge. I’m happy to say that while we know the struggles we’ve faced as a staff – the students and visiting teachers had only great experiences to head back to school with. I’m so very proud of the team I work with.

It’s a testament to why outdoor education is so safe. We mitigate our risk. We assess , we modify, we plan …


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  1. This Week in Ontario Edublogs | doug — off the record

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