Local Outdoor Education instructor, Steve Soames, believes in putting theory to practice.

This is why on a crisp October morning a group of his students were skinning a deer, while most of their contemporaries at Merritt Secondary School were indoors learning by the traditional method at their desks.

To learn some things, Soames says, you actually need to experience them.

And so, the students gathered around as Soames and First Nations support worker, Tim Manuel, demonstrated the proper method to remove the hide from a fresh deer, and then they rolled up their sleeves and tried it themselves.

Offered each semester through MSS, Outdoor Education gives students first hand experience with the outdoors. It also incorporates the Conservation Outdoor Recreation Education (CORE) program, which is a requirement for anyone wishing to obtain their first hunting license in British Columbia.

Soames explained that this program arms students with basic survival skills including First Aid, firearm safety and how to use a GPS. Students will also learn how to make fire, how to make snares and basic traps, how to build snow shoes, and how to build a shelter.

“You don’t intuitively know how to make these things,” said Soames. “Now, if they get lost in the woods, they’ll be able to survive for many days.”

(An outdoor enthusiast and former Scout leader, Soames admits to spending two or three weeks in wilderness by himself just for fun.)

While students won’t actually get to go hunting as part of the program, they have already visited the rifle range and Soames plans to take them on a hunt where they shoot animals with cameras instead of guns.

The outdoor education program also incorporates a fishing component. Each student will get a fly-tying kit and learn to tie six basic flies.

“Hopefully then they’ll get the bug and broaden their abilities themselves using the internet,” said Soames.

Students during the winter program won’t be able to practice fly fishing; instead, they will learn to ice fish.

Ultimately, Soames says his goal is to get students outside into the elements as much as possible, and hopefully to teach them something along the way.

“We live in Merritt – this is supernatural B.C.,” said Soames. “There are hundreds and hundreds of lakes in the immediate area. The outdoors is part of the First Nation tradition and it’s part of our culture here in Merritt.”

Soames said the aim of the program is to teach hunters conservation ideas and ethics while they are young and encourage other students to get out and enjoy the wilderness around them.