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Man standing on a mountain oeak with hand up silhoutted by the full moon
The Rockies Staff

Want Street Smarts? ‘Howl’ Outdoors is Your New School

How a Canmore Teacher is rewriting the post-schooling script to navigate the realities of adulthood

We go to school to learn the basics we need for life.

We learn to read and write. We study history, science and math. We get skills to help us navigate our way in the world.

But after graduation, the path forward often doesn’t seem as clear-cut as our school lessons were. The practical knowledge to move forward as an adult in the world is much more nuanced than the theoretical lessons learned in the classroom. 

Learning things “the hard way” through trial and error is the general approach most of us take towards mastering the more complex aspects of becoming a so-called “adult.”

Adam Robb, a Canmore high school teacher of 15 years, wondered if there was a better way.

His biggest question, as a teacher, was – how were youth finding their way in life after school? 

group of students posed outdoors in front of a teepee.
The Rockies Semester crew. experiencehowl | Instagram

He took a leave of absence from the job he loved to find the answers. He didn’t realize at the time that it would be a permanent leave.

By collaborating with a network of educators, community members, and past students, he started to put together methods to help young (or old) adults learn what you might call “street smarts” (not the criminal kind, but the practical day-to-day smarts).

Then, with a few dozen other co-founders, he created “Howl.”

Howl is an organization that gives young adults hands-on, experiential learning about big topics like community and reconciliation so they can move forward more effectively. 

Howl does this through outdoor, nature-oriented “Semesters” or “Field Trips” right out of Canmore that focus on exploring the lands and people of the Rockies.

As the website describes, “Howl’s Semester provides a deep exploration of the natural world, the communities that Howl is based in, and ultimately a better understanding of yourself.” 

Participants are offered guidance, education, coaching and support 24 hours a day for the program duration.

“There was a lot of emotions. There were a lot of people going through some pretty challenging life situations, and everyone came together and shared and laughed and cried,” one participant, Cole Flanagan, told CBC News.

Every program features teachings on the land from Traditional Knowledge Keepers of that place. For example, the Rockies program’s hiking guide is local Îyârhe Nakoda guide Travis Rider.

Students holding a plastic bin full of freshly harvested beans from a garden
Learning about food and gardens. experiencehowl | Instagram

A typical week includes activities like group dinners, storytelling and reflecting circles, time spent exploring the Rockies, and workshops on everything from food sovereignty in the Bow Valley to running a small business.

Howl helps participants gain skills for a sustainable life, volunteer experience, receive entrepreneurship training and get immersed into the Bow Valley community.

Beyond the life skills gained, the experience aims to help young adults better understand who they are and want to be.

“The Howl Experience will make your values clearer in your mind and allow you to strengthen your path towards the future. The experiences I had with connecting to diverse people in this program renewed my love of people and gave me hope for the future,” said one participant.

In a world where life’s challenges extend beyond the classroom syllabus, Howl is a guiding light for young adults seeking practical wisdom.

Adam Robb’s vision has materialized into more than an organization. He has shown what can happen when someone cares for their community and wants to make a difference.

Plus, as any Albertan knows, you’re guaranteed a hell of a view from the Rockies if you’re ever having trouble seeing clearly.

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