Representatives from School District 79, the provincial and federal governments, and local Elders gathered for a grand opening in Mill Bay earlier today.

The Mill Bay Nature School opened in September of last year and children come to the school with smiles on their faces and, as Head Learner Kim Ondrik said kids are encouraged to be their whole selves, including their messy, mischievous, and sometimes rude selves.

School District 79 Superintendent Robyn Gray said the program is expanding over the next four years.

“As we build and plan the school, each year we’ll start from the bottom up and grade three’s from this year will go to grade four and so on, all the way to grade seven and until they complete their elementary school experience here,” said Gray.

Head Learner at the Nature School, Kim Ondrik said this program essentially goes back to the way education used to be delivered.

“In some ways, the curriculum is back to the future, going back into more ancient practices that worked for a long time, over the last 150 years, we’ve changed everything,” said Ondrik. “Now we’re realizing that maybe we should rethink this and go back to practices that actually were really successful for a long time.”

Ondrik was presented with a Garry Oak tree as a gift during the ceremony.

The program started last September and is offered to kids from Kindergarten to Grade Three.

Mill Bay Nature School students. Kyle Christensen, MyCowichanValleyNow.com staff.