North Vancouver School District
the natural place to learn©

Every river tells a story....



September 2015

Cheakamus Centre Welcome

The return of the salmon marks the start of the 2015/16 Outdoor School Program at Cheakamus Centre.  After a warm, dry summer, recent rainfall has created ideal salmon spawning conditions in the Cheakamus River.  The life-cycle of the salmon continues. 


August 2015 

The natural place to meet

Cheakamus Centre, home of the North Vancouver Outdoor School, is pleased to provide year-round rental access to unique venues and accommodations for nature-inspired meetings, retreats, and celebrations.  Situated on 420-acres of ecological reserve in the Cheakamus River Valley near Squamish BC, this magical setting inspires reflection, understanding, and connection to the natural world. 

Whether it's a milestone celebration event with exceptional catering, a corporate team-building activity led by our experienced staff, or a private retreat with self-guided programming, we ensure guests a memorable and seamless experience.  Cheakamus Centre can accommodate groups of up to 300 people. Google Map Link  

Proceeds from facility-rentals support our environmental education and leadership programs for children and youth. 

For more information about the Cheakamus Centre, please contact:

Cathy Jenkins
Project Manager
Phone 778.772.0157

Learn more about Rentals at Cheakamus Centre

Learn more about Rentals in the North Vancouver School District


July 30, 2014

First Nations Bighouse Program


Experience a Traditional Coast Salish Bighouse

in a unique cultural program at the Cheakamus Centre.  Journey back in time through towering cedars to learn how stone, bone, and wood tools were used to chop wood and strip and pound bark.  Stroll along spawning channels of the Cheakamus River, a name that means "people of the fish weir", before arriving at the Bighouse, where Elders will welcome you with ceremonial song and dance.
Learn about life in the Bighouse and the different roles of family groups from hunting and fishing to weaving and plant gathering.  Together, you will prepare lunch using time-honoured cooking methods and make bannock over the fire.  Elders will lead workshops in traditional arts in this fun, hands-on program for the whole family.
Full or half-day programs are available for adults and families.
Pre-registration is required.  Program requires minimum numbers to run.  For pricing and registration details, please view our program overview
June 5, 2014

BCAA Employees Transform Nature’s Classroom on Volunteer Day

Third annual BCAA Volunteer Day delivered on renovation wish list for Cheakamus Centre
Now in its third year, BCAA Volunteer Day brought close to 150 BCAA employees together to lend their hands—and tools—to help revitalize the Cheakamus Centre, home of the treasured Outdoor School.  The Centre is one of a handful of environmental learning centres in Canada, making the major upkeep of this facility an important task.

 BCAA Employees Transform Cheakamus Centre

After almost a half-century of existence, the Cheakamus Centre is in need of repair. BCAA removed some of the burden off of Centre staff so they can focus on delivering impactful learning experiences to the thousands of kids participating in the Centre’s programs each year.
With a growing wish list of fixes and restorations, the Cheakamus Centre received the help it needs to ensure the facilities are welcoming and safe for kids and visitors of all ages.  Projects included painting, renovations, building amenities for the bunkhouse, and rebuilding a deck surrounding a nearly-thousand year-old cedar tree.  
Cheakamus Centre runs important programs that teach kids about community leadership while inspiring them to be good citizens and make more environmentally responsible decisions.  The Centre also supports other non-profit organizations, hosting community groups such as the B.C. Firefighters Burn Camp, Artists for Kids School of Visual Art, and the B.C. Arthritis Society’s “Kids on the Move”.  
May 14, 2014

Thank you to all who made Open House 2014 a great success!

Despite a rainy start to the day, an enthusiastic crowd of over 1,200 visitors attended the annual Open House at the Cheakamus Centre on Sunday, May 4th.  It was a fun, family day of nature exploration and discovery. Outdoor activities for all ages included archery and canoeing, releasing salmon fry,  celebrating Coast Salish arts and culture, and simply enjoying nature's outdoor classroom with friends and family.

Award-winning chefs Melissa Craig of the Bearfoot Bistro and Chris Whittaker of Forage restaurant joined Cheakamus Centre Chef Wade to offer up a healthy concession boasting local, fresh ingredients and tasty seasonal snacks - all with minimal waste!  Visitors also had an opportunity to take a LEED tour of the sustainability features of the showcase BlueShore Financial Environmental Learning Centre. The North Vancouver Outdoor School Alumni Society's silent auction and raffle raised $5000 towards the Outdoor School for Kids Bursary Fund, which will allow for twenty children from financially disadvantaged families to experience the Outdoor School programs next year.
A very special thank you goes out to all of our sponsors, exhibitors, and the over 75 youth volunteers who helped out with this great community day of hands-on fun and education [click on image to enlarge].

 February 19, 2014

New Appointment to Cheakamus Centre

On behalf of the Board of Education and Executive Committee, I am delighted to announce the appointment of Conor McMullan as Director of Educational Programs for the Cheakamus Centre. 
Conor is an innovative and progressive educator with 18 years of experience in teaching and administrative leadership at independent, international, and post-secondary schools.  He is a graduate of UBC with a BA (International Relations), BEd (Geography, Social Studies), and a Masters in Curriculum Design, focusing on Outdoor Environmental Education.  Conor has been a sessional faculty member in Outdoor Environmental Education at UBC since 2004.  More recently, he had the opportunity to extend his experience and leadership in outdoor environmental education as the director of a year-round residential facility at the Green School in Bali, Indonesia.

While working at West Point Grey Academy and UBC, Conor developed successful and ongoing partnerships with the North Vancouver Outdoor School.   Having worked locally with thousands of students in the field of outdoor environmental education, Conor is a strong advocate for the belief “that education is a process by which we can engage and empower children with the skills, insight and emotional intelligence to think and act in a responsible, and by extension, sustainable manner.”

Please join me in welcoming Conor to our team.   He is excited to join the North Vancouver School District and support our vision of developing world-class excellence in environmental education at Cheakamus Centre, where nature is in session.
John Lewis
Superintendent of Schools



Salmon are in session! 

Behind the scenes of a stellar pink salmon run

November 20, 2013
Fisheries and Oceans Canada reported in late October that the pink salmon run of 2013 has exceeded all expectations in many areas of the West Coast, with pinks in many rivers, returning in numbers not seen in more than 50 years.  The dedication of the teachers and staff to habitat conservation projects at the North Vancouver School District’s Cheakamus Centre near Squamish, has contributed in part to this remarkable recovery.
Pink salmon in the Squamish River had their last great run in 1963, when more than three-quarters of a million returned to spawning grounds.  The growth decades from the 1950s to the 1970s were not kind to pink salmon populations, and by 1977, it was a rare sight to see a pink salmon spawning in any stream within the Squamish River watershed.
Since 1985, many community partners have been working together to rebuild pink salmon populations and restore critical river and tributary spawning grounds in the region.  Over the years, the NVSD has provided access to the Cheakamus Centre’s extensive property along the Cheakamus River, which now contains the largest stretch of restored side-channel habitat in the Squamish River watershed.  This restored side-channel habitat provides exceptional outdoor learning and wildlife viewing opportunities for Cheakamus Centre students and visitors. 
Ongoing conservation efforts are returning rivers and streams to more natural conditions and reconnecting the many branches of the waterways used by salmon. This fall’s record level of pink salmon returns is a reminder of the power of community partnerships, and of nature itself.  
Read the full Fisheries and Oceans Canada release here…
The Cheakamus Centre is a 420-acre ecological reserve near Squamish, BC, which includes the North Vancouver School District’s renowned Outdoor School program. The vision for the Cheakamus Centre is to be a destination and centre of excellence in environmental education and sustainable hospitality. More information on environmental programs, facility rentals and leadership opportunities for high school students can be found at:

North Vancouver School District's Environmental Learning Centre Recognized at 2013 Architectural Awards​

From left to right: The Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia; Craig Duffield, Associate, McFarland Marceau Architects Ltd.; Cathy Jenkins, Project Manager, Cheakamus Centre; Marie-Odile Marceau, Principal, McFarland Marceau Architects Ltd.; John Lewis, Superintendent of Schools, North Vancouver School District​


November 7, 2013

The BlueShore Financial Environmental Learning Centre (ELC) at the North Vancouver School District’s Cheakamus Centre in Brackendale, BC was one of 13 winning projects recognized by the Architectural Institute of British Columbia at the 2013 AIBC Architectural Awards on October 25, 2013.

The ELC, designed by McFarland Marceau Architects, was one of three projects that received the prestigious Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Award in Architecture – Merit Level distinction. Winners were revealed at the Presidents’ Dinner & Awards Gala, the culminating event of the annual AIBC Annual Conference at the Vancouver Conference Centre.  Her Honour, The Honourable Judith Guichon Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia was in attendance to present the awards, bringing added significance to the occasion.

The AIBC described the ELC design as a “playful tree house…in keeping with the essence of a centre for environmental study and discovery”.   The award jury made special note of the decision to raise the main floor, resulting in a vantage point within the forest canopy, and extensive covered outdoor teaching areas beneath the building that “bring the nature connection to life.”

The ELC opened its doors in June 2012 on the Cheakamus Centre campus, allowing for enhanced environmental educational programs and expanded conference and event space. John Lewis, Superintendent of the North Vancouver School District considers the ELC to be “a prized emblem of 'the natural place to learn'” and a “world-class facility that brings together our values of environmental stewardship and sustainability to support an exceptional program of experiential outdoor education and hospitality."  The building’s award-winning design has targeted LEED Platinum sustainability status.

The ELC is the first phase in an ambitious master plan to revitalize the Cheakamus Centre, a 420-acre ecological reserve in Paradise Valley, which includes the North Vancouver School District’s renowned Outdoor School program. The vision for the Cheakamus Centre is to be a destination and centre of excellence in environmental education and sustainable hospitality.

To view the full AIBC media release and photos of the award winning projects visit

For more information about the Cheakamus Centre, please visit

Cathy Jenkins
Project Manager

Introducing a New Chapter in the Outdoor School Story: Cheakamus Centre 

September 26, 2013

For 44 years the North Vancouver Outdoor School has been a place where students learn about nature and the importance of sustainability.  Situated on 420 acres of designated ecological reserve on the Cheakamus River near Brackendale, the school has become an international destination for visitors keen to experience the beauty and significance of Paradise Valley, its First Nations heritage, and ecological value.

Building on the Outdoor School legacy, the site is now primed to offer expanded programming, events, and conference services, with a continued commitment to outdoor educational programs for elementary and secondary school students.

To reflect this broader vision, the North Vancouver School District is pleased to announce that the site will henceforth be known as "Cheakamus Centre."  The name was developed through a consultative process and rooted in the local  Skwxwú7mesh word, "Chiyakmesh," meaning "people of the fish weir."

"Like the river itself, we are constantly changing and moving," says John Lewis, Superintendent of the North Vancouver School District.  "Our long term plans for the Outdoor School program and the Cheakamus Centre will ensure that we remain a viable, thriving organization positioned to serve as a destination and centre of excellence in environmental education and sustainable hospitality."

Along with a new name, Cheakamus Centre has a new visual identity, developed by Hangar 18 Creative Group.  The Centre's slogan, "nature is in session," reflects an outdoor and experiential learning environment suitable for learners and visitors of all ages.


Media Release - September 26, 2013

Media Inquiries

For media inquiries, please contact:

Victoria Miles
Communications Manager
North Vancouver School District
Phone 604.903.1254


Program and Facility Rental Inquiries

For information on the Outdoor School program, facility rentals, and opportunities to get involved, please contact:

Cathy Jenkins
Project Manager
Cheakamus Centre
Phone 778.772.0157

visit our new website at

Student Counselors

If you are a high school student interested in volunteering as a counselor at the Outdoor School or learning more about our youth leadership program, we would love to hear from you!

Please email us at

Helping to Hatch New Ideas

Over the past six months, teams of Master of Management-Early Career students from the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business have lent their business skills to community-enhancing projects for local organizations.  The North Vancouver Outdoor School is one of the fortunate organizations to benefit from this Community Business Project.

The talented team of Amreeta Garcha, Gloria Tso, Matthew Moss, and Shannon Cumming recently completed a comprehensive feasibility study of the Outdoor School Farm.  The students interviewed local farmers, businesses, industry associations, and educational institutions and analyzed and evaluated the feasibility of on-site food production and sustainable food growing demonstrations at the North Vancouver Outdoor School.

Several exciting partnership opportunities emerged from the study that support the Farm to School - Farm to Table program at the new North Shore Credit Union Environmental Learning Centre and the North Vancouver School District's environmental education and sustainability initiatives.

​The Sauder student team brought a fresh perspective to the Outdoor School farm program and operation, and in turn, the students had the opportunity to develop their business skills and gain real-world experience--a bountiful harvest!

NVOS_UBCSauder20130530.jpgAmreeta, Matt, Gloria, and Shannon at the NVOS Farm

Learn more about the UBC Sauder School of Business