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Phil Robson: Piloting the Eremos Project

by Anam Fatima

Phil Robson at a picnic table.

Phil Robson (B.Ed. ’12) has launched The Eremos Project, a four-week outdoor education program at the Maranatha Christian Academy in Windsor, Ontario.

While attending the University of Windsor for his Bachelor of Human Kinetics, Phil was first introduced to Outdoor Recreation through a fourth year course that took him on a nine-day canoe trip. This course fuelled interests of getting youth physically active and teaching in the field of Outdoor Education.

He found out about the Outdoor and Experiential Education (OEE) program at Queen’s through a Graduate Studies Fair and, after visiting the campus and talking to the current OEE students, decided to apply and was accepted to the program.

After graduating from the OEE program, Phil started working as an Occasional Teacher for Maranatha Christian Academy in Windsor and began to think about how to implement his education into their school environment. Having only 80 students in their high school, Phil knew that Maranatha could not yet support a semester long integrated environmental program like the one at Bayridge Secondary School, where he completed his practicum placement, or like the others he had researched for his OEE program. However, they did have the flexibility to offer summer credits much like those offered at the Gould Lake Outdoor Center.

Phil wanted to pitch this Outdoor Education program right the first time so he took the time to properly prepare. He made sure the course content was completely designed and matched curriculum expectations, had the budget showing how the program would be self-funded and, thanks to his previous presentations at Queen’s, had solid research-based evidence to back up his methods.

The Eremos Project would be a four week program that would offer a project based (read: experiential education based) Environmental Science (11M) credit, an ORCKA Basic Canoeing Course, opportunity to work with university researchers in the field, and an eight-day canoe trip in Algonquin Provincial Park to both Maranatha and non-Maranatha students.

“Thankfully, the course requirements of the OEE program had already given me the incentive I needed to become a certified Lifeguard and Wilderness First Responder. These certifications, topped with the ORCKA Instructor certification I obtained in the summer, made me the perfect candidate to run this program at Maranatha.”

Finally, in mid-October Phil pitched the idea to the Principal. She directed him onto the Vice-Principal and Guidance Counsellor who helped him refine the program further. In early December, he then pitched the program to the high school education committee, who approved the idea and took the idea to the board. A day before the winter holidays, Phil found out that the board approved the idea.

“Did I mention this would be a paid position? What a Christmas present!”

The project has already received approval from the school’s Board of Directors to run the experiential Environmental Science course over four weeks this summer. The new website has been launched for The Eremos Project (www.eremosproject.com) and has received generous funding support from Learning for a Sustainable Future (LSF) for their community garden action project. Currently, they are actively recruiting applicants for the program by speaking at Youth Groups and online advertising.

“I hope you enjoy looking at the site and thanks again for the great experience last year. OEE really did give me the tools and confidence I needed to get this project off the ground. Everything should be viewed as an opportunity to grow and learn. Look to learn from all of the experiences – both gold and silver – you will have while at the Queen’s Faculty of Education. Always try to understand the reasoning behind why your professors are teaching you the way they do. If you do this, you will have a deeper appreciation for how your future students will learn and feel in your classroom.”

Congratulations to Phil on this tremendous achievement and his contribution to Outdoor Education Programs in Ontario.

You can now learn all about The Eremos Project at www.eremosproject.com, at www.facebook.com/eremosproject or follow The Eremos Project on Twitter (@eremosproject).