Beyond the Gates

Where losing sight of land, / We shall find the stars.
~ Sir Francis Drake
Launched as a pilot program in September 2021, Beyond the Gates is an exciting opportunity for Grade 9 students at Shawnigan Lake School. This dynamic year-long program takes students out of the classroom and into the beautiful and diverse wilderness of Vancouver Island and beyond. Students participate in a series of excursions and community projects that incorporate rich First Nations culture, sustainability concepts, and a love of the outdoors, allowing the connection between the classroom curriculum and real-world applications to be explored.

The goals of this program are to challenge students to discover themselves, help them to develop a strong sense of person and place, and to propel them through their Shawnigan journey. This is accomplished by blending lived learning experiences with academic classes, all facilitated by a dedicated team of dynamic education staff.

Students and parents choose to apply for Beyond the Gates, which runs in parallel to Shawnigan’s traditional Grade 9 program. Students in the Beyond the Gates cohort are fully integrated into the boarding houses and participate alongside their peers in after-school athletic and co-curricular activities.

Educational Staff

List of 3 members.

  • Photo of Laura Robson

    Laura Robson 

  • Photo of Galen Loiselle

    Galen Loiselle 

    Social Studies, EDGE Coordinator, Coach
  • Photo of Eric MacDonald

    Eric MacDonald 

    Outdoor Education


Students in Beyond the Gates are engaged in a program of learning that matches the academic rigour of the traditional Grade 9 model, and which effectively prepares them for success in Grade 10 and beyond. The program uses curricular integration in the core subjects of math, science, English, and social studies to help students see the interconnection of each topic as it is brought to life in an experiential approach. While participants learn all of the same content as their peers over the course of the year, their classes, prep, and assignments may look different as material may be learned in a different order and in a more experiential context.

The cohort is out of the classroom, outdoors, and off-campus more than is customary in most educational models, and through these experiences students gain soft skills such as trust, teamwork, leadership, curiosity, and flexibility, all while seeing benefits in mental health and self-confidence. These off-campus opportunities are scheduled to have a minimal impact on a student’s ability to fully engage in all other aspects of Shawnigan academics and co-curriculars.

By participating and actively engaging in outdoor adventure, community living, and projects, students add meaning, experience, and intent to their academic journey.

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Surrounded by the vast, rugged wilderness of British Columbia, Shawnigan Lake School is perfectly suited to take advantage of the many outdoor activities and experiences the region has to offer. Whether it be on the water or in the mountains, there is something for all to gain from the program. By connecting classroom curriculum and future-proofing skills to real-world experiences, the program is equipping students with the tools they need to thrive in an ever-changing world environment.

Throughout the year, a series of day and overnight excursions supplement classroom-based teaching, leading up to a multi-week trip in the spring term where students can apply all the skills and knowledge obtained over the year.

Students will have the opportunity to engage in diverse outdoor adventure activities including mountain and coastal hiking, snow sports, and sea kayaking – challenging themselves by exploring new horizons and applying new knowledge, skills, and values to their world and in turn allowing the Grade 9 students to discover themselves.
My daughter has been in her element for the past month and her love for learning has returned in a way that is inspiring and motivating. Being out in nature has cultivated her curiosity and naturally draws her to question and explore her environment. Learning in a holistic way where the subjects are woven together helps her understand concepts and apply her understanding more easily. Building a close knit group has created a safe, caring space where she can feel free to make mistakes and take risks she normally wouldn't. With you and Laura at the helm, she knows she can go to either of you with academic or personal challenges she faces. We are so fortunate to have our daughter part of this program and grateful that you have chosen to create this program.  - Current Parent
Join the program for 2022
We acknowledge with respect the Coast Salish Peoples on whose traditional lands and waterways we live, learn and play. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in this beautiful region, and we aspire to healthy and respectful relationships with those who have lived on and cared for these lands for millennia.