As an Arctic Inspiration Prize laureate, Recreation North believes that recreation has the power to help people grow and be healthy and to build strong families and communities. The prestigious award recognized the opportunity to influence quality of life through a recreation leadership training program that would be accessible and sustainable across Nunavut, NWT, and Yukon. Since receiving the prize in January 2016, the partnership of the three territorial recreation and parks associations has developed, tested, and now offers training that is relevant and accessible to Indigenous and Northern communities.

Reaching all three territories through one program is not an easy undertaking. The commitment to strengthening recreation leadership competencies through the appli­cation of knowledge and skill, while meeting the needs of diverse learners requires innovative approaches and creative use of technology.

Although new to many, remote (or distance) training offers the opportunity to learn without leaving one’s family, work, and community. “It is a really good opportunity even though I had to learn to deal with the computer. It (the training) developed my skills. Even what you think you know… there’s more to it,” says Jolene Kigusiutnar from Arviat.

Recreation North’s Training Program “is flexible and works around people’s schedules and is online in blocks. This is really good — you can work around busy schedules and complete certification at a reasonable pace in a reasonable way,” offers Jason Tologanak from Rankin Inlet.

Despite being new, impacts from the recreation leadership training are noticeable. Twenty-four people from 22 communities participated in the first year with 10 complet­ing the required training and receiving a Certificate in Northern Recreation Leadership.

Upon completing his certificate, Nyasha Kamera of Pond Inlet reflects on the training: “It was a marathon of informative, relevant, and practical learning which gave me a better understanding of how the Northern recreation system works. The courses were tailored for the North and covered every important aspect, including planning, finances, being a strong leader, getting to know your community, how to promote programs and events, proposal writing, and managing risk in remote situations.”

The right training at the right time is critical as Rob McPhie, a heavy equipment operator turned Recreation Manager, discovered. Rob’s supervisor, CAO Kathy Clark explains that, “As a result of taking this training, my employee gained confidence and was better able to do the programming. He was able to apply what was learned instantaneously and I see him do it daily. It was incredible!”

In year two, the value of training that can be applied to each learner’s context is evident. More than 50 people have taken advantage of the training for professional and personal reasons. “Reading is a great way to learn but doing is what works best for me. The discussion board was a strength, as well, because everyone had different ideas and it helped me view certain activities with a new understanding,” says Sarah Nichol from Fort Smith.

Nyasha receives his Certificate in Northern Recreation Leadership from Executive Director Dawn Currie and Scott Schutz. © Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut

Recreation North’s curriculum is based on 13 foundational competencies for leading in community recreation. Training is grounded in priorities of the Framework for Recreation in Canada and inclusive of a range of learning and teaching styles and Indigenous perspectives. The program is delivered through a series of micro learning events that take place over two weeks and include two conference calls that connect learners with one another.

Recreation North’s trainers believe that the real learning comes from the group of participants. Learning events are designed and facilitated to encourage interaction. “The input and discussions from the calls are what I always look forward to. Learning with like-minded people is one thing that I really enjoy as well,” agrees Alina Lizotte from Hay River.

In November 2018, Recreation North launched its full training program with open registration for more than 20 learning events. Some people choose one or two learning events, while others choose to take the 12 required for a certificate. Access to relevant and practical knowledge is important for Northerners. Glenn Guevara from Inuvik comments, “When I work and concentrate in a specific environment which is LTC (long-term care), I forget to step back and look at the bigger picture. This course ‘knowing our community’ makes me aware and familiar of ‘recreation’ in a big picture. As a result, I can be more motivated and more effective in my work and in the community.”

Recreation North takes a break over the summer months with training resuming in September 2019. The full schedule and details on how to register can be found at www.recnorth.ca.

Amanda Grobbecker is Program Manager from Recreation North and Caroline Sparks is a Learning Consultant for the Program.