“It’s a completely different educational experience when a class observes a Chinook arch – the look and feel of it, and how the surrounding environment responds to it – than reading about weather in a textbook,” says Kathleen Meuse, highly-regarded educator, long-time teacher with the Calgary Board of Education and current OH Ranch Education Coordinator.

Grade 4 to 6 classes from Calgary and surrounding areas make the trip to the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch in Longview, Alberta for the experience of a lifetime and the opportunity to apply their classroom learnings in the real-world.

Meuse, pictured back left teaching the class is a strong believer in student participation in off-campus field studies and working with experts in a variety of fields. Meuse has a passion for the outdoors, ecology, sustainability and stewardship of the environment, and engaging and inspiring her students. She grew up in Alberta has strong ties to the High River and Calgary areas.

“It’s all about instilling curiosity,” continues Meuse, “students shine in different settings and that’s when learning can really sink in.”

Meuse works with each teacher before their class attends the OH Ranch to design an experience completely tailored to them. Whether the teacher is introducing a topic to inspire enthusiasm for the upcoming unit, or wrapping one up, students have the ability to demonstrate what they learned in person, Meuse helps create a special experience for every class.

Even though each class’s trip is planned in advance, Meuse lets her intuition guide her to respond to each class’ particular needs as they take in all that is the vast working cattle ranch.

“One class arrived filled with students who were very unfamiliar with being outdoors and interacting with insects to the extent that the students could not focus on the lessons because they were afraid of the bees,” Meuse remembers, “so the next morning, I gathered different insects and put them in jars and we spent the morning learning about the insects up close, feeling the grass and dirt, and learning how to look for signs of spring.”

The highlight of that week for Meuse was on the final day when a bee landed on one of the students, who then kept her arm still, taking the time to observe it. Meuse watches countless stories of student transformation unfold before her eyes, with every class that participates in the OH Ranch Education program.

Meuse teaches her students the importance of being a steward of the land through practical lessons, which includes reminding students that any garbage they bring to the ranch must be brought back out with them.

Sustainability is a focus Meuse includes in all her lessons, especially as the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch is protected land from the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Last year, the students of the program helped conserve water use at the ranch cookhouse by 50 per cent through sustainable practices taught by Meuse. “When students see that there is no garbage pickup or waste system on the ranch it puts into perspective the importance of responsible living,” explains Meuse.

Meuse is always keen on encouraging students to think about “who else lives here?” and “how will this action affect the ecosystem?” Hosting the education program on an authentic working cattle ranch helps students make a connection to their actions.

“On our nature walks around the ranch, I point out the paths where students have walked previously and even though there haven’t been that many people on the trails, the students can already see the impact,” says Meuse. “My hope is they take this realization back with them and start to become more conscious in their daily lives.”

Hosting the program on an authentic working cattle ranch also showcases agriculture and the western way of life.

“The OH Ranch Education program is a holistic view; it’s not just about visiting a ranch, it’s about culture, history, the arts and appreciating aesthetic,” Meuse reflects.

This program is just one way the Calgary Stampede Foundation creates motivated and engaged students, empowered to make a difference in the world around them, building strong youth and stronger communities.

The Stampede Foundation works to create a generation of young people with the skills, confidence and strength to make us all stronger. To learn more about the Education programs, visit http://foundation.calgarystampede.com/youth-programs/. To learn more about the OH Ranch Education program specifically, visit
http://corporate.calgarystampede.com/oh-ranch/experience-education-at-the-oh-ranch/

The Calgary Stampede Foundation is proud to provide our city’s next generation with the tools they need to realize their potential and improve our city for centuries to come. We are building Calgary’s future, together.