Youth Exchange Canada: Tobique First Nation

I was very excited when Ashley McLellan, a dynamic young educator who had been spending some time with me helping me think about impact and learning, introduced me to the resource The Third Path: A Relationship-Based Approach to Student Well-Being and Achievement. As I read through it, I couldn’t believe how much the authors were getting right! And it seemed to describe what we were trying to do at The Mabin School so perfectly! Not only that, it captured so much of the research I had learned about in my journey writing my own book, Pushing the Limits: How Schools Can Prepare Our Children Today for the Challenges of Tomorrow. Back in 2013, my co-author, Kelly Gallagher-McKay and I had set out to find success stories from across Canada of educators, schools and systems pushing the limits of what was possible for kids, and in 2017, we finally had a book full of these stories to show for it!

So, I acquired 30 copies of The Third Path and gave one to each of the educators at The Mabin School over the Summer Holidays last year. I invited them to read a paragraph, a page, a chapter, or the whole thing, but to come back to school ready to talk about one piece of the resource that had spoken to them. When we got together in our “grade teams” in late August, we started with a circle, and each person spoke about an idea or quotation that had resonated. Here are some of the ideas they mentioned:


  • The focus on relationships has always been a focus at The Mabin school, where relationship is the fourth “R” (Reading, ‘Riting, ‘Rithmetic, and ‘Relationship);
  • Children and adults both need a safe space to make mistakes, since mistakes lead to learning;
  • We liked the Mental Effort Bar as a visual of how we can keep kids engaged and energized — and a reminder of how we can keep OURSELVES engaged and energized;
  • The reference to the attachment spectrum excited us. The idea that sometimes students self-sabotage to regain control is such an important one when we view misbehaviour and determine causes and responses;
  • We loved the idea that academic learning is a vehicle for human development, and that human development is really the business we are in;
  • We found it incredibly useful to have a research-based document to support both our intuitive and intentional practices.


The next day we did many activities that taught us about the history and culture of Indigenous peoples. We chose from a variety of crafts, including basket-weaving, wood burning, rock painting, rattle making, and medicine bag making, and also had a chance to learn about the use of plants as medicine and go on a plant scavenger hunt. That evening there was a community potluck and drum and dance circle, which was a lot of fun.

Our last full day was spent at Camp Shiktehawk and we had perfect weather for all of the fun activities, including archery, human bowling, ropes courses and rock climbing. That night we had a friendly game of kickball, Toronto vs. Tobique, and then had many of Tobique youth come back to camp with us for the last night. In the morning we were certainly sad to see the week come to an end and to have to say good-bye to our friends, but we had such a great time and know that we will stay in touch and hopefully see them again soon.

Some words from our students:

“This exchange was one of the highlights of my high school experience and I would very much recommend it to other students.” -Seth

“It was a great trip, I wish it was longer!” -Peter

“I had the time of my life!” -Javier

Key Facts

School Type: Progressive, Special Needs Support
Grades (Gender): 9 to 12 (Coed)
Tuition: $ 25,500
Average Class Size: 8 – 10
Enrollment Day: 70  (9 – 12)
Contact Person: Don Adams


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