Vancouver Island University’s Milner Gardens and Woodland and Deep Bay Marine Field Station will work collaboratively with operators of Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park to develop joint educational programming for kindergarten to grade 12 students and adults.
VIU President Dr. Ralph Nilson signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday with Richard Varela, Park Director of Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park and president of Island Pacific Adventures Ltd. (IPAL).
The MOU establishes a partnership between the two VIU sites (Milner and Deep Bay) and IPAL “to develop and market site- related children and general interest educational programs in areas of mutual benefit and interest.”
Educational programming at Milner Gardens and Woodland will focus on the forest habitat/ecosystems and safety. The Deep Bay Marine Field Station will offer children’s programming on the marine environment, while Horne Lake Caves will offer geology-based programming as well as a recreational aspect.
Efficiencies in shared marketing and registration costs will allow for competitively priced programs.
“This is an exciting new opportunity to strengthen public and private engagement in our community,” said Nilson. “We’ve taken two significant VIU sites – Deep Bay Marine Field Station and Milner Gardens and Woodlands – and will work in partnership with the operators of Horne Lake Caves to enhance the profile of the three facilities and provide opportunities for people of all ages to participate in educational programming. Everyone benefits from the creative cross pollination of energy and ideas.”
Varela and his colleagues are excited to join forces with VIU to showcase the unique geography and landscapes of the region.
“We see it as a wonderful opportunity to raise the profile of the caves and work with other educational partners to provide complimentary programming and enough content to encourage groups to come to the area from afar,” he said.
Geoff Ball, Director of VIU’s Milner Gardens and Woodland, said the idea “builds on the garden’s popular Shoots with Roots program and enhances opportunities to offer groups a well-rounded experience that cannot be offered at the gardens alone.
“The addition of a cutting edge marine research facility with the unique learning experiences held at Horne Lake Caves, and the close proximity the three locations provide a fantastic opportunity for a successful collaboration,” Ball added.
Brian Kingzett, Manager of the Deep Bay Marine Field Station, said the three facilities are half an hour apart from each other so it makes logistic sense to offer joint educational programming for groups of teachers and students.
“By working together, we can provide unique experiential learning opportunities for kindergarten to grade 12 students and others,” he said.
The partners will develop curriculum over the summer and hope to offer the first educational programs in early fall.
Varela said the MOU signing is a positive step forward in his company’s ongoing relationship with VIU.
“This past year, we’ve worked with VIU’s Tourism and Recreation Management faculty, hired co-op students and ran field trips for students at Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park,” he said. “VIU students conducted a number of research projects on site including one to determine viability of operating an outdoor centre. Another research project looked at the business case for this educational partnership between the three partners.”
VIU geology department students, under the supervision of faculty member Tim Stokes, also contributed content to the Horne Lake Caves new park interpretative brochure, Varela said.