Mill Bay Nature School


In September 2018, Mill Bay Elementary re-opened as a district program focused on nature.

Mill Bay Nature School

For thousands of years, the beautiful and varied land in the Cowichan Valley has been the “classroom” for learners of all ages. The new nature-based school at Mill Bay Elementary opened in September 2018 and builds on this rich history, providing children with frequent outdoor experiences through all subject areas that allow them to play, explore, and experience first-hand the natural world.

Nature-based learning allows children to be naturally curious, and stimulates their sense of wonder and discovery. As we see in other popular nature-based programs, children will:

  • become more physically fit and confident;
  • learn from hands-on experiences;
  • benefit from the calming and inspiring effects of being in nature;
  • learn more about their strengths, interests, and challenges; and
  • develop confidence and ability to investigate and collaborate.

Our school will draw on the wealth of knowledge found right here in our community. Student learning will be rooted in the wisdom and experience of local naturalists, farmers, foresters, botanists, historians, and/or other local experts. All of the children will benefit from the knowledge of Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers.

The nature school will begin with up to 80 Kindergarten to Grade 3 students. The intent is to gradually expand to a K-7 school to allow the students to continue their elementary education at the school. When running at full capacity, the school will be able to accommodate up to 200 students. The school is welcoming and inclusive of all learners.

The school will be aligned with the BC curriculum and informed by the First Peoples’ Principles of Learning.

          “Nature is important to children’s development in every major way: intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and physically. Play in nature is especially important for developing capacities for creativity, problem-solving, and intellectual development.” – Kellert, 2005

About the Principal – Kim Ondrik

Kim Ondrik was born with a heart for social justice; a passion for understanding people, relationships and community; and a designer’s thirst for creating safe places for people to grow. Her quarter century of teaching has been honoured with the Outstanding Thesis Award at UBC Okanagan and the UBC Top 100 Alumni Award, as well as shortlisted for the Cmolik Prize for the enhancement of public education in BC, and the Ken Spencer Award for innovation in teaching and learning in Canada.

Kim is a daughter of Don Dell from Scotland and England and Nini Theilade from Ireland and Denmark growing up in Tsawwassen. She is a wife to Doug Ondrik, a sister to 2 brothers, a mother to 4 sons, an aunt to 5 nieces, a cousin to a hundred, and a friend to many.

Kim is pictured her with her very supportive family

Kim has been a co-creator of several innovative and inclusive learning communities in BC over 25 years, including The Friendship Company, The Garden, The O-Zone, and Vernon Community School. She has an undergraduate degree in special education and a Master of Arts degree in curriculum and diversity.

A mermaid at heart, Kim is very grateful to have found herself back to the sea again – “I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living” (Anais Nin) – taking up the new and very exciting challenge of co-creating an innovative place of learning and growth for all members of the Cowichan Valley community inspired by the transformative ideas embedded in pedagogical caring, servant leadership, First Peoples principles of teaching and learning, inclusion, and inspirited curriculum-as-lived – “For the child and for the adult seeking to guide him/her, it is not half so important to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge & wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.” (Rachel Carson)