Experiential Learning

In a rapidly-changing world, it is critical that we give our students the skills to thrive and adapt. At Shawnigan, our students engage in powerful hands-on learning experiences, connecting concepts and making decisions, and even mistakes, that will enhance their education far beyond the scope of any textbook.
Our EDGE (Engagement, Development, Gratitude and Experience) Program challenges students to take responsibility for their own experience while engaging with communities in Canada and around the world. Our outdoors and OuterEDGE programs take explorers to local islands by sea kayak, where they learn to brave white-water rapids in rafts and administer first aid in adverse conditions. Our Living Lab teaches participants to test water quality and study local biodiversity. Our salmon hatchery puts fish stock directly in the hands of students. Our Entrepreneurship 12 class faces the pressures of running a popular restaurant. Our Model UN delegates discuss geopolitical crises. Our robotics team must overcome technical glitches while competing on the world stage.
These programs, among many others, allow students to develop critical thinking, resilience and adaptability—skills that will support them in becoming lifelong learners, ready to explore a fast-paced, changing world with curiosity and courage.

Ski Week

Ski Week has been a unique and integral part of Shawnigan’s annual calendar since 1973.
Taking place in February each year, Ski Week is timed to take everyone off campus to a fresh, fun environment at a point when the usual dark, rainy West Coast winter days seem to be stretching unrelentingly on. Manning Park Resort is located in the beautiful British Columbian Cascade Range, and for the duration of Ski Week, Shawnigan takes over the whole resort, turning it into an experiential learning playground where students, teachers, and staff families spend memorable quality time together outside of the classroom.

Beyond the Gates

New Program

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. All students participate in a series of experiential learning and outdoor activities, allowing the connection between the classroom curriculum and real-world applications to be explored. This is accomplished by blending lived learning experiences with academic classes, all facilitated by a dedicated team of dynamic education staff. Through these experiences students additionally gain soft skills such as teamwork, leadership, curiosity, and flexibility, all while seeing benefits in mental health and self-confidence. By participating and actively engaging in outdoor adventure, multi-disciplinary projects, and cultural activities students add meaning, experience, and intent to their academic journey.


The OuterEDGE program takes our Grade 8 and 9 students on outdoor adventure-based journeys, creating connections to the beautiful wilderness areas of Vancouver Island. Through outdoor challenges such as sea kayaking in a national park, braving white-water rapids, or hiking to peaks in the mountains, students learn to embrace challenge and work as a team. Previous outdoor adventure experience is not required or expected – with the support of qualified instructors, these trips intentionally stretch our students, putting them in uncomfortable situations, allowing perseverance through adversity and learning through experience.

EDGE Service Trips

EDGE (Engagement, Development, Gratitude and Experience) is Shawnigan’s experiential education program. Launched in 2005 as a direct humanitarian response to the tsunami in Southeast Asia, EDGE introduces students to multi-week outdoor adventures encompassing internationalism, environmental awareness and systems thinking. Since the program launch, students groups have visited countries as diverse as Thailand, Costa Rica, China, Ecuador and Zimbabwe.

Each EDGE project requires a great deal from every participant: pre-trip planning and fundraising, demanding travel, hard physical and emotional work, long days in hot, humid or cold weather, infrequent access to hot water for bathing and laundry, and--perhaps the greatest challenge--little or no personal space. Each trip pushes students out of their comfort zone, tests their limits and puts service and stewardship front and centre. The EDGE program connects students with parts of the world that they may have never seen before, helping them develop a sense of gratitude and perspective through deep, meaningful engagement and connections with teammates and host communities.

Student-led Passion Projects

Our unique student-centered timetable creates time and space for students to pursue interest and excellence in areas of their choosing. There are no formal co-curriculars on Friday afternoons, giving students space to pursue diverse activities and, in doing so, promoting autonomy, initiative, and leadership.

Student agency is at the core of Shawnigan’s programs and several of our best programs have been imagined and developed from the ground up by students for students. Students are encouraged to extend an existing co-curricular program or create something new that is not offered in our existing programs, for example intramural basketball and volleyball, captain’s practices in competitive sports, mountain biking trail development, chess club and peer tutoring.

When creating group activities, students are encouraged to think about safety, inclusivity, and communication so their ideas and efforts can be enjoyed by whole community. These group activities will change from year to year as they are kindled by individual student passion and interest, but popular offerings may become integrated permanently into our athletics or co-curricular programs for future students to enjoy and benefit from.

Duke of Edinburgh Award

Duke of Edinburgh Award logo
The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is a global non-formal education and learning framework, which recognizes and celebrates young people's achievements outside of the classroom. The Award is about individual challenge and developing a sense of commitment.

With guidance from Award Leaders based at the school, each young person is encouraged to examine themselves, their interests, abilities, and ambitions, then set challenges in the four different sections of the Award: Service, Physical Recreation, Skills and Adventurous Journey.

Working towards completion of the challenges in one or more of the progressive tiers of the DofE program (Bronze, Silver and Gold) immerses students in an experiential learning program, aids them in discovering hidden talents, taps into their leadership potential and helps them to gain confidence in pursuing community service and adventure opportunities.

We were honoured to welcome Prince Philip to campus in 1969 to give the Award in person to some of our students.

The Heimbecker Inspiration Chair for Experiential Education

Shawnigan is delighted to announce the establishment of the Heimbecker Inspiration Chair for Experiential Education.
Following on Project Future's strategic pillars of Academic Excellence, Co-Curricular Distinction, and Student Life Unparalleled, the Heimbecker Chair will support the development of our new Beyond the Gates outdoor education program for grade 9 students, all part of our effort to ensure that Shawnigan's experiential adventure programming continues to deliver extraordinary learning experiences for our students in the beautiful wilderness of Vancouver Island.
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.