Unique experiential learning programs on the Star 6 Ranch connect youth with nature and the environment
Through a variety of programs, Star 6 Ranch works with Îyârhe Nakoda youth from Mini Thni, students from Exshaw School, and groups and organizations from across the Bow Valley. Regardless of age group, all programs have one thing in common: connecting people with the land and the surrounding environment.
Star 6 recently launched the Bright Stars pilot program program to connect youth aged 13-18 with nature through hands-on, experiential education. Students take care of horses, work in the fields and gardens, and spend time with intergenerational mentors.
“The land on which the ranch sits is sacred lands – long a place of community, gathering, ceremony, healing, teaching, sharing,” says Chloe Vance, Director of Programs & Partnerships at Star 6.
Founded in 2015, the Star 6 Ranch is nestled beside the Kananaskis River, about halfway between Banff and Calgary. Using art, equine connections, outdoor education, and mentorship opportunities, the Star 6 is connecting people with nature.
Learning opportunities at the Ranch are experiential and based on four main pillars: stewardship of the land, creating environments for learning, nurturing connections, and supporting self-discovery and healing.
Along with having fun, they build confidence and a new understanding of connectivity with nature. For Vance and her team, working with horses is essential to the learning process.
“Horses act as a mirror for humans—reflecting our anxieties, insecurities, but also our strengths,” says Vance. “Spending time in their presence, forces us to slow down, ground ourselves, become centered in heart, body and mind, reconnect with our breath and listen.”
A recent donation from the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation will allow Star 6 to build capacity and expand their offerings to the community.
“When students can connect with the environment and each other, they thrive. Star 6 Ranch is offering those who might not otherwise have the chance to learn outside, an avenue to gain a better understanding of the natural world,” said Cathy Geisler, Executive Director of the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation. .”Connecting youth with the environment, whether through interacting with horses or growing their own food, builds life-long confidence and a deep commitment to the world around us.”
Vance says the current programs are only the beginning. Financial support will allow Star 6 to expand all of their programing, giving more people the opportunity to engage with the Ranch and connect with nature.
“This funding adds to the growing momentum, helping us realize our collective dream of having the ranch be a place that supports those facing challenges, to become the best we all have the capacity to become,” Vance adds.