Every child needs access to a quality public education that gives them the opportunity to reach their full potential, but not everyone fits into the mainstream school system.
Take a Hike is a full-time alternate education program that supports vulnerable youth in grades 10-12 to overcome barriers to achieving success in school and in their lives. We use the outdoors and adventure to engage students in school, community, and mental health supports. Our goal is to help students build the skills and resilience they need not just to graduate, but to navigate life as they become young adults.
Over the course of almost two decades, Take a Hike has developed an effective, trauma-informed, evidence-based program model.
Self-paced, individualized education plans and a focus on experiential learning give students the opportunity to relate to academics differently and take all the courses required to graduate high school.
As well as spending 4-days a week in the classroom, students spend one day each week learning outdoors where they can test and apply knowledge to real-life situations. Students report increased engagement in academics and course retention by learning experientially and in the wilderness.
Students take all courses with the same teacher in the same classroom and they are supported by a team of volunteers, ensuring they receive more time, attention, and encouragement than larger schools can afford. Small class sizes of 12 to 20 students also allows for a close community feeling in a safe, inclusive and caring environment.
Embedded in each classroom is a full-time registered clinical counsellor who provides continuous, intensive support, helping students develop social and emotional skills, work through challenges and address mental health concerns.
Take a Hike is one of the few educational or outdoor programs in British Columbia that has dedicated mental health services woven into the program. For many of our students, Take a Hike is their first encounter with mental health services.
Whether checking in for ten-minutes between classes, or taking the time to work through a personal crisis, students have access to full-time mental health support both in and out of the classroom.
Our therapists use a trauma-informed approach and a range of evidence-based theoretical models tailored to the individual student’s needs and the needs of their family. Therapists engage in regular clinical supervision and their work forms part of almost twenty years of practice-based research.
Spending time in the outdoors engaged in fun and challenging adventures provides students with regular opportunities to disconnect from technology and social media, as well as substance use and other habits. while developing resilience and self-awareness that help them navigate the challenges of life and achieve their goals. Physical exercise and mindfulness practices improve mental and physical health, and working in teams helps students build and test relationships that are supported by a team of trained staff.
The Take a Hike program involves one full-day expedition each week and three multi-day expeditions ranging from 3 to 10 days depending on the student’s grade level and the season. Spring and fall actives include hiking, kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking and indoor rock-climbing, while winter activities include snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice-skating.
Around half to three quarters of our students will leave the city for the first time with Take a Hike.
Every week at Take a Hike students engage in service-learning and volunteering in their community in the spirit of giving back in gratitude for the support they have received. Through this volunteer work students also experience first hand how their own contributions are valued.
Students are supported in the classroom by volunteer tutors and mentors who offer specialised skills to help them with different courses, and encourage them with their academic work. Through this community in the classroom students learn to realise they are surrounded by safe and caring adults, and to trust that they belong to a community that cares about them and who can support them.
At the heart of the successes we see in students is a unique classroom community. Students spend all day, every day with the same twenty students and four staff members. The classroom quickly feels like a tight-knit family. The classroom is built on a foundation of safe and caring relationships, a safe, inclusive, and predictable environment, tailored supports and strategies aligned with attachment-based and trauma-informed approaches, continuous and intensive shared time and learning among staff and students, and high expectations for student success.
Learn more about our program model and evidence-based theory of change, developed over almost twenty years of student success.
If you are a student that would like to apply to the Take a Hike program or a parent or counsellor looking for information, please contact the school district intake personnel below, listed under each program location. They will gladly answer your questions and provide you with guidance.
Please note that intake is determined through the school districts that we are partnered with, and generally filled and completed for each September school year start, in May/June.
Take a Hike Burnaby
Peter Van Den Hoogen
Take a Hike Vancouver
Adriann Conner (available September – June)
Keri Tomlinson (available September – June)
Take a Hike West Kootenay
(available September – June)
250.364.1275 Ext. 270
Take a Hike Nanaimo
Take a Hike Delta
(available September – June)
(available September – June)