Growing up downtown Toronto, Ont. Campbell Bryk didn’t fit in. Life in the middle of the city, taking the subway to and from school and no friends with an interest in the outdoors made it difficult to succeed in academics.
It wasn’t until enrolling in Lakefield College School for grades 11 and 12 he found his groove.
“I can’t learn from a textbook,” he said.
It was Lakefield’s focus on incorporating outdoor education, Bryk said, that helped him finally excel.
“I wanted to learn, I wanted to be there and my grades went way up,” he said. “Math and physics suddenly made sense when they were connected to my hobbies. It made it so I liked learning rather than having to learn for the sake of success.”
While there Bryk said he loved taking part in sports and outdoor education nearly every day.
“It becomes an integral part of your life. I loved sharing that with people that aren’t like me (experience-wise) because we’re all there for the same goal. You don’t think you’re learning when you’re out there.”
Years later, after moving to B.C., Bryk opened his own business Elevated Fishing
Adventures serving the Sun Peaks tourist base. The business has roots in his Ontario past.
“Outdoor education brought it to life for me that you can have your hobbies for the rest of your life. It’s not about working all your life for two weeks of vacation.”
What started as a university project blossomed to a successful venture with Bryk guiding unique ice fishing experiences on lakes around the area..
Since 2016 Bryk has not only met tourists from around the world but has learned even more about the importance of being outside, especially for kids and families.
“We sit in a hut and we’re facing each other and there’s no cell phone signal,” he said. “Parents say ‘this is the most present and focused my child has been since they got their phone.’
“They’re only worried about what’s going on in front of them. Putting the electronics down and getting outside is huge. It teaches you how to be present and shares with people that you can do an activity as a family.”
He added skills from math to art can be taught through activities like fly or ice fishing.
In an effort to further spread outdoor education programming, Bryk accepted an invitation to speak to the board of trustees from Lakefield alongside other alumni.
The group met in Victoria, B.C. in early May at Power to Be, a nine course golf course on Prospect Lake which is in the process of becoming a camp for those living with a disability or barrier to better access nature and enjoy the outdoors.
Bryk said he shared the impact outdoor education had on his life, teaching him academic subjects and life skills.
“What I explained in Victoria is it (outdoor education) made the world feel like a smaller place. I have friends all over the world and they made it seem like one community.”
Tim Cormode, executive director of Power to Be and Lakefield alumnus, said the programs are for those with more difficult barriers in their lives to connect to the outdoors, develop social skills and grow relationships and connections.
“First and foremost the outdoors to me has been a real place for me to be myself,” he said. “Lakefield was critical to (me for) using outdoor ed as a vehicle to learn more as a person.”
Cormode hoped the Prospect Lake site, when complete, will become the best outdoor education centre in Canada.
“It speaks to nature and activity and belonging. It will give kids the opportunity to call this place home. Our hope is it inspires other communities to do something similar in their community.”
For Bryk, Power to Be and his own experience are inspiring him to look for more ways to give back closer to home. The fishing lover who went out more than 100 times last winter is hooked on the feeling of sharing his passion with others.
“It feels incredible, that’s why I love work. It feels incredible to do what you want to do and share that with people.”