by Tina Comeau, THE VANGUARD

(L-R) Neil MacKenzie and Mike Carter of Avid Media with a display of habitat markers and interpretative panels that will be installed on the Tkipok Trail located near Arcadia Consolidated School. Photo by Tina Comeau

Many people think of classrooms as only being rooms with desks inside a school.

But on the grounds surrounding Arcadia Consolidated School an outdoor classroom is continuing to undergo improvements so it can present more educational offerings, in addition to physical fitness.

The Tkipok Trail – known in the past as the Utkubok Trail – will have interpretative panels installed over the coming months to educate visitors about Mi’kmaq history and culture and the history of Arcadia. The panels will also include information about the animals, plant life and habitats that can be found along the trail.

“It’s been a long time coming,” says teacher Bruce Hobbs, who explains this project started years ago. “I’m excited that it’s going to be almost complete.”

A first phase of the revitalization of the one-kilometre trail saw the installation of new fitness stations so that those using the trail can incorporate other forms of exercise into their walk or run. This next phase will see 15 habitat markers, or interpretative panels, installed. The panels have been made by Avid Media, although research for the information has involved a variety of sources, including, among them, the Acadia First Nation, the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History and The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq. The panels and markers are not just meant to be a static display.

“The real challenge was to make it applicable for various levels of students, so for young kids the goal was for them to be able to point to an animal photograph quickly and recognize it and then for the older kids, as the text gets smaller it gets more in-depth,” says Neil MacKenzie of Avid Media, who notes Mi’kmaq translations are also displayed.

There are also QR (quick response) scan codes on the panels that people can scan with their smartphones or tablets to be connected to a trail website where people can link into videos or audio messages pertaining to further aspects of the trail or the info on the panels.

MacKenzie says the trail will also have GPS information.

Given its location, the trail is used a lot by Arcadia Consolidated School.  Hobbs incorporates the trail into his physical education program. The trail is also the site of an annual cross-country run for local schools.

Natural Resources has used it for educational programs and say the enhancements will make it an even better resource. “I’ve done ‘Kids in the Forest Day’ on this trail with schools in Yarmouth County and if we were to do it again these would be even more of an experience,” says Deanna Nauss.

Frank Grant, director of Yarmouth Recreation, refers to the trail as a golden gem for the public.

The trail’s name has changed from Utkubok to Tkipok to reflect changes in the Mi’kmaq language. The improvements have also required financial support, which has come from partners in this project, including Acadia First Nations, Nova Scotia Health and Promotion, Yarmouth Recreation, Yarmouth County Community Health Board, Tri-County Regional School Board, IMO Foods and others.

“I say it’s well over $75,000 that we’ve raised,” says Hobbs. A grand reopening of the trail is planned for sometime in May.
Meanwhile, a review is underway of Arcadia Consolidated School. Grant says if the school was to be closed the trail would still be available to the public.

“The good thing is that this school is on municipal property so if we ever get to that position where they close the school, and we hope that doesn’t happen, the lands are still owned by the Municipality of Yarmouth and Yarmouth Recreation is in the position where we would take over the operation of the trail,” he says.

Arcadia School vice-principal Larry Fitzgerald notes that the trail has good guardians now, this being the students of the school who monitor it to ensure there is no damage. They also keep the trail clean.

“And now with the new fitness stations and the new signs it will be a gold mine for outdoor education,”  he says.

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