Y Outdoor School

While 2020 has been a particularly challenging time for families and children in schools and at home, we have long been aware of the social, emotional and mental health benefits of time spent outside. It is at this time, more than any other, that we see the need for children to have access to a nurturing and supportive community of peers, fulfilling outdoor experiences, and connection to nature.

At the YMCA-YWCA of Vancouver Island, we are excited to be offering a small outdoor program for elementary aged children. This is an outdoor education program designed to supplement home or online, teacher-supported learning. It also involves nature-based and ‘forest school’ inspired programming, focused around a student-centered and inquiry-based lens. Our 1200-acre Camp Thunderbird site offers exceptional opportunity for students to explore, connect, learn and grow over the course of the school year. This is place-based learning at its best; children will spend their days in the company of old growth temperate rainforest, creeks, trails and floating with the local newts and migratory birds on our lake, as the seasons change. Learning activities, including traditional camp activities like paddling, campcraft and team building are woven into each day. Children will largely spend their time outside (yes, even in the rain!) learning new skills, connecting with their peers and the natural world. They will be supervised and supported by experienced outdoor education staff and a qualified teacher. Busing to and from our site is provided.

Program Information

Registration, Payment and Cancellation
Academic Support
Group Size and Outdoor School Schedule
Program Supervision & Oversight

Dates and Cost

Winter Session – January 12th to March 11th, 2021

Spring Session – March 29th to June 24th, 2021 (tentative)

The cost of the program is $80/day per child. For Winter Session, the costs will be:

  • $720 (1 day/week)
  • $1440 (2 days/week)
  • $2160 (3 days/week)

How to Register

Online registration is now open, click here.


Payment is available in full or on a pre-authorized payment plan.  Pre-authorized payment plans require 1 payment at the time of registration, remaining fees are scheduled on the first of the month automatically to a credit card. At this time the Y can only accept payment by credit card.


To cancel your child’s enrollment, notice in writing must be provided 14 days prior to your payment date.  A $50 administration fee applies to all cancellations, including medical reasons.  If the required notice is not provided the next payment will be charged.

Download the Payment Agreement

During each day, staff will seize opportunities to weave elementary curriculum (literacy, numeracy and science) into the daily activities to support learning. While we are not an accredited BC school and will not be evaluating or assessing students’ work, outdoor experiential learning lends itself to learning, inspiring children to make connections between real world experience and academic subjects like language arts, math, social studies and science. This is learning that sticks – when children are engaged with the world and others in meaningful ways they will retain and extend this learning into other areas and over the long term.

We are also offering a 90-minute period each day, when students can focus on schoolwork that was assigned through their regular school program. Academic support is provided by a qualified teacher and supported by our outdoor education staff. Families choosing this option must be able to send children equipped with their assigned schoolwork, as well as any materials they might need to complete it (worksheets, laptop, writing tools, etc.). Children must be registered with their school district as an attending student, homeschooler, distance learner or in a hybrid learning program.

Groups of up to 10 students will work with each staff person throughout the day with a focus on social connection and connection to the environment. For a sample of a day in the life of the Y Outdoor School, please see the Y Outdoor School Information Package. The Y Outdoor School will run during school hours Winter 2021 Session. The day will run from 8:00am-3:30pm and includes busing to the site from the Victoria Downtown Y or Langford Westhills Y (under staff supervision).

Registration for each term will be available through our online registration system. As this program will be operating over the winter months, should the weather make the Camp Thunderbird location inaccessible, an alternative site may be arranged.

Students will be grouped based on interests and abilities.  We will be keeping this program relatively small (up to 24 students per day, in the first term), and we will maintain a minimum ratio of 1 staff member to 10 students. For our COVID-19 safety protocols, busing plan and a sample of a day in the life  of the Y Outdoor School, please see the links below.

The Y Outdoor School is open to families seeking 1 or more days a week of outdoor education programming and learning support for their children.

Ages: This program is suitable for children in the elementary grades (Grade’s 1-5; 6-12yrs old).  Children attending must be able to practice the level of self-care appropriate to the environment and activities. This includes a commitment to keeping themselves dressed to suit the weather conditions, staying hydrated, and eating well (as well as a willingness to use outhouses as required).

Program Dates:

Winter Session – January 12th to March 11th, 2021

Spring Session – March 29th to June 24th, 2021 (tentative)


The cost of the program is $80/day per child. For Winter Session, the costs will be:

  • $720 (1 day/week)
  • $1440 (2 days/week)
  • $2160 (3 days/week)

*Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we are not able to offer financial assistance for participation in the Y Outdoor School program at this time.  If we secure additional funding, we may be in a position to consider financially assisted applications at a future date. We would welcome all financial contributions to help us make this happen.

The Y Outdoor School has been developed by Fiona Hough, Manager of our Mindfulness and Mental Wellness programs at the Y, in collaboration with the Camp Thunderbird and Outdoor Centre management team. Fiona has a depth of experience in classroom, outdoor and nature-based experiential education as well as in mindfulness as a mental health and well-being support and the therapeutic use of nature-based experience. In previous roles, she has been a teacher, school principal and educational consultant and has worked as a sessional instructor at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Education specializing in the integration of outdoor & experiential learning with academic curricula. Fiona and the Camp management team will provide support, training and ongoing professional development and program oversight for this program.

Our teacher and instructors come with years of experience working with children and in outdoor education, classroom teaching and camp leadership and supervision experience.

Register For Outdoor School Today


Please take a few moments to read through resources below.  We highly recommend all families review the information booklet, even if they have been to the Y Outdoor Centre before, this booklet contains important details about Y Outdoor School operations, what to expect and what to bring.

Information Booklet What to Wear For Outdoor School COVID 19 FAQ


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