Brooke Jones in Banff Hello/Bonjour! My name is Brooke and I am a Summer 2 outdoor & experiential education student of the consecutive Bachelors of Education (BEd) program at Queen’s. This past February, I travelled to Banff National Park to complete my alternative practicum with the Parks Canada Agency. The experience was incredibly eye-opening as it helped me recognize the versatility of a BEd degree and the presence of educational experiences outside of the traditional classroom context. 

Prior to my alternative practicum, I had been involved with Parks Canada through their university Campus Club program and a short-term employment opportunity. Thanks to these experiences, I was able to make a connection with the Visitor Experience and Program Development department at Banff National Park and they invited me to work with them for the 3-weeks practicum period. The reason why I sought out this position is because I have always aspired to work for Parks Canada as a career and love the beautiful landscapes of western Canada. This year Parks Canada is offering free admission to their sites in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation, which also makes it a particularly unique year to be involved with the agency. I am sure that anyone else who may be interested in completing their alternative practicum with Parks Canada, even if they don’t have volunteer or work experience with them, would be welcomed with open arms as they strongly support youth engagement within their agency.

Bridge over icy lakeWith the Visitor Experience and Program Development department, I was able to work on various projects/programs such as planning BioBlitz Banff (Parks Canada’s first ever BioBlitz!!), organizing group-volunteer programs, facilitating Banff’s 10 year volunteer program anniversary/appreciation event and completing various other office-based tasks. This position provided me many opportunities to network with many Banff Parks Canada staff, travel around the local area and see tangible results from my work (super rewarding!). My supervisor, Tina, was also incredibly flexible, trusting, encouraging and kind, which only added to my positive experience. Following my practicum, I realized how many educational opportunities that Parks Canada offers to their visitors at all of their sites and the value of these programs. I am glad for the skills and knowledge that I developed throughout my BEd degree as I was able to apply them during my practicum, even if I was far from being in a traditional classroom.

Thumbs up for BanffSome advice that I would like to offer to any current and future BEd students is to take full advantage of the opportunity that your alternative practicum offers you! You have the ability to apply your degree wherever and with whoever you want during these 3 weeks so take the time to think about what your passions are, find a placement that involves your passions and that is outside of your comfort zone and, of course, have FUN! I promise you won’t regret it. There are also many funding opportunities for those that are considering going abroad so don’t let your finances hold you back from accepting international opportunities.

Bonne voyage!!