FLOW – Future Leaders On the Water

The CSR developed the FLOW – Future Leaders On the Water program in response to community concerns that First Nation youth were increasingly losing their cultural connection to the ocean.  The FLOW leadership program, which is based in traditional knowledge, marine sciences, and environmental stewardship and conservation will spark enthusiasm in youth for preservation of the environment while pursuing marine related careers and eventually fill the jobs in community owned shellfish aquaculture ventures.     This will be our third year of piloting and developing this program for integration into the Deep Bay Field Station’s regular programming.

Marine Biology Lab

Elders and First Nations youth on the deck of the Chetlo during 2009 program looking at plankton just collected from a tow.

Designed for First nation’s youth 13 – 18 years of age on Vancouver Island, the FLOW program mixes leadership training and fun activities with environmental and marine science. It teaches youth respect for the environment, and the importance of conservation and preservation by illustrating how shellfish and marine ecosystems function and why they are important to our planet.     Due to the sustainable economic development opportunities that shellfish aquaculture can provide, many BC First Nations are becoming actively involved in creating viable shellfish aquaculture operations.  To be successful in their pursuits of economic and job opportunities through shellfish aquaculture, First Nations need to preserve the pristine marine environments in which they live while building capacity within their communities.
The program includes: field trips to the beach with environmental and water quality monitoring activities; marine species and native plant identification activities and the importance of conservation; chemistry and biology labs highlighting science as an environmental protection tool; an archaeology tour focusing on the historical significance and importance of aquaculture to First Nations, both culturally and currently. It also includes learning outdoor survival skills; traditional stories and songs; traditional pit cooking with salmon and shellfish, and recreational activities such as paddling, swimming, bouldering, soccer and volleyball.

Through collaborating with in-community Youth and Education Coordinators, who recruit youth from their communities, previous participant communities included: Hesquiaht, Chemainus, Ucluelet, K’omox, Snaw-Naw-As, Toquaht, Pacheedaht, Huu-ayaht, and Ehattesaht First Nations.  This collaboration is essential to the success of the program.

Traditional knowledge and the participation of First Nation elders as mentors and holders of this knowledge are an integral and invaluable part of the program.  Resident elders and First Nation student mentors (enrolled at VIU) act as role models for the youth.

In July 2008, a small pilot of this program was sponsored by the CSR to determine feasibility and interest by coastal First Nations communities.  The program was very well received with five communities participating in the program.

In 2009, the FLOW program was able to continue in its second year with delivery to twenty-one teens, four adults, and five elders, from ten different coastal First Nation communities, with eight of the teens returning for a second year.

In an effort to accommodate as many teens as possible, we are making modifications for 2010 and taking the FLOW program to the communities. Travelling into various communities on the island, we will deliver a 2 – 3 day, day camp to reach youth that would not otherwise be able to attend.   Tentative dates for the program are July 26 to Aug 13, 2010.

For more information or to support this program contact:

Stephanie Richards
Center for Shellfish Research,
Vancouver Island University900 5th St,
Nanaimo. BC V9R 5S5
Phone: 250 740-6398
Fax: 250 740-6353


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