Mount Pearl's classroom in Gros Morne: High school teacher presents a donation to Killdevil Camp, the same week he’s recognized for bringing 750 students to the camp over 15 years

By Melissa Wong | The Pearl

At the back of the Ross King Memorial Public Library, James "Jim" Locke, Mount Pearl's Deputy Mayor and teacher at Mount Pearl Senior High School, told a story about a ritual performed before bringing his students to Killdevil Camp in Gros Morne National Park.

"Every year I survey my students before we go out, I say ‘Whose ever been to Gros Morne?'" Locke said. "You might get 15 per cent that have been to Gros Morne."

"Than I say, ‘Whose been to Florida?'" Locke said as the light caught his glasses. "And you get about 80% that have been to Florida… So, many people figure they have to leave Newfoundland and Labrador to have a nice vacation."

For Locke, his field trips are a chance to prove this assumption wrong.

Parks Canada organized the Teacher's Institute for a week in 2003 in Gros Morne. Locke said that after attending he organized a trip with his students next fall and has taken whole families of siblings to Gros Morne over the years.

Killdevil Camp is a non-profit Camp and Conference Centre. It is run by the Anglican Diocese of Western Newfoundland, which started it on July 1959 at Lomond, on the Eastern Arm of Bonne Bay. For 15 years, Locke has brought 750 students to Killdevil Camp with help from Parks Canada.

"We go to the classroom of Gros Morne," Locke said as he explained the field trips are worked into his course curriculum.

Parks Canada and Killdevil Camp provided Locke opportunities to bring his students to the Tablelands, a world heritage site, to see the Earth's mantle and to learn about Indigenous traditions.

Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, Locke said he took his students to what he calls a "fire circle" that was organized for the last five years by Kevin Barnes, an interpreter for Parks Canada. Barnes, a former chief of the Mi' kmaq of Benoit's Cove in the Bay of Islands, passed a talking stick around the fire circle.

During a phone interview with Jennifer Wight, a student who was at that fire circle in 2018, she said that whoever holds a talking stick in a fire circle has the right to speak their mind.

Locke recalled how Barnes played the drum, while singing Amazing Grace in the Mi'kmaq language.

According to Wight, she and Locke stayed behind to speak with Barnes, after the fire circle ended. Locke told Barnes that Wight and her friend, Amy Butler, were students that had been on the Gros Morne field trip before and enjoyed the camp so much that they returned this year.

Unknown to them, Barnes had a surprise for all three of them the next day.

Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018, Locke and his students went to the Discovery Centre. Wight said that it was there that Barnes gave Locke a traditional ceremonial drum that had belonged to Barnes' grandfather. Then, Kim Thompson, Parks Canada’s promotions officer, presented Locke with a certificate of appreciation. Parks Canada said on Facebook, they acknowledged Locke because he worked with them to develop a World Geography 3202 course for the students, he brought to the camp, each fall.

According to Wight, after Locke got his certificate, both her and Butler were called up by Barnes. Barnes surprised them by presenting each with a talking stick.

Locke said he also had a surprise for the camp, and his students that he only revealed just before his students' final supper at Killdevil Camp that year. Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, in the camp cookhouse, Locke presented Malcolm ‘Mac' Turner, executive director and onsite caretaker of Killdevil, and the camp staff with a $1500 donation on behalf of Mount Pearl Senior High School.

"Parks Canada is not directly affiliated with- with the camp," Locke said. "The camp didn't know that I was getting the award and Parks Canada didn't know that the camp was getting any (money)… they were two separate entities, so they weren't in any way related they just happened to occur at the same time."

The school had donated the money to help the camp repair the fire and flood damages which occurred in the same year.

According to Locke, before heading down to the camp he read a news article reporting that a fire in the generator shed knocked out the electricity on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. The 54 young girls from ages 11 to 14 staying at the camp, were sent to Lomond River Lodge until the fire department contained the fire. No one was hurt, but the generators were damaged by the fire.

While his class travelled to Western Newfoundland this year, Locke noticed the camp was dealing with flood damages too.

"All throughout the park, while we were driving, there were bridges," Locke said. "The bridges had been washed out, the roads had been washed out, so they were still doing ah, reconstruction to the roads and the shoulders of the roads, while we were out there."

The Anglican Diocese of Western Newfoundland's representative acknowledged flooding and fire issues.

"The flood occurred last January when there were heavy rains in the Bonne Bay area," Cannon Duncan Granter wrote in an emailed statement on behalf of the Anglican Diocese. He did not elaborate on what the repairs would cost or how much was covered by insurance.

"We didn't know if, Killdevil had damage or not, as (the) bridge on the road leading to Killdevil was washed out. We could (not) get access until the end of April," Cannon Duncan Granter added. He went on in the email to explain that Parks Canada would not let them enter the camp because it was too dangerous.

Locke said he and many of his former students were saddened when they heard about the flooding and fire incidents at the camp. The camp meant a lot to Locke.

"I call them my Killdevil family," Locke said. "(The staff are) my Gros Morne family because they are like family members now. (I) look forward to seeing them every year and ah, we got to know them, I know their family and their backgrounds, their children and their grandchildren so ah, yeah, I've developed such beautiful relationships over the years with them."

It was Locke's idea to help the camp.

Locke spoke with Don King, the principal at Mount Pearl High, about how the school could help that camp. The school donated the $1500 from its scholarship fund towards the camp that has provided a hands-on learning experience for students over the years.

"I have been to 30 countries in the world and Gros Morne still- still ranks in the top two or three places that I have been in the world," Locke said. He will retire in three years and said that he wants these trips to go on without him.

Locke has booked the trip again next fall for the 60-year anniversary of Killdevil Camp.

Posted on January 9, 2019 .