If you were in Nelson last week, you may have noticed an increased number of visually impaired students and guide dogs strolling down Baker Street. This is because of Kootenay Project Adventure (KPA), a unique program that provides opportunities for students with visual impairments to come together and participate in outdoor recreational activities. Founded in School District No. 8 over ten years ago, KPA has gained popularity over the years and now includes students from around the province. The yearly program, which is set in different communities around the Kootenay and Okanagan regions, was hosted in Nelson this year and included 11 students and youth with varying degrees of vision loss, their families and educational staff.
One of the main activities was located at the Four Nations Coalition of Indigenous Medicines in the Slocan Valley. Partnering with School District 8 vision services, the Four Nations sponsored a full-day to bring students with visual impairments together with new sighted peers to participate in indigenous cultural outdoor activities. Prior to the event, the Four Nations program coordinators took the time to learn about blindness in a half-day workshop and then went to work to adapt their programming to fit the needs of all participants.
The main highlight was blindfold archery tag, an activity that placed sighted and visually impaired participants on an equal playing field. Blindfold activities continued into the web-of-life activity, where participants had to pass everyone, including a guide dog, through various sized holes along a large web. Participants also made bannok over a fire in a tipi while listening to a traditional Sinixt story. The day ended with a traditional farewell song. Everyone agreed that the activities were fantastic and well adapted to include all.
The next day, participants were excited to try rock climbing. Having to abandon the original outdoor climbing option due to poor weather conditions, the Cube Climbing Centre board members graciously opened their doors at the last minute to support the project. Summit Mount Guides did a fabulous job of adapting their teaching technique for the group. The main highlight was watching a visually impaired participant belay an instructor who was climbing a rather difficult route with his eyes closed.
Thanks to our local activity sponsors, Four Nations and The Cube for partnering with School District 8 vision services to make this year’s Kootenay Project Adventure a success.
Sofeya Devji is the SD8 teacher of the visually impaired