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International School for Earth Studies


The International School for Earth Studies is a facility dedicated to environmental conservation and animal behavior in Ladysmith, Québec. Award winning sustainability and good environmental practices, Earth Studies offers programs that immerse youth in the outdoors, promote a simple lifestyle and care for and learn about a diverse group of animals.

The 500-acre campus is home to both our resident pack of Siberian Huskies and our herd of Canadian Horses. Earth Studies is one of the only wildlife rehabilitation facilities in Western Québec who rescues and releases wildlife.

Our gap year students work directly with the sled dogs, horses and rescued wildlife and learn to manage them. These students are passionate about environmental issues and are solutions seekers. Students deepen their understanding of previous academic studies to influence and shape their future careers.



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I've now spent somewhere over 4 months with the incredible Cushing family, and I've loved every minute of it. I went in the fall of 2013 as a gap year student, in January-February 2014 as an intern, and back again for last summer. I've learned so many things from my time at Earth Studies - about the environment, communication, natural horsemanship, work ethic, kennel management, primitive survival skills, trail management, animal rehab, and so much more. My time at Earth Studies has shown me the importance of a human connection to Mother Earth and given me opportunities for a deep connection with animals that's impossible to find anywhere else. It has allowed me the tools and the time for some serious introspection, and gifted me with a true second family. Earth Studies is an incredible and unique place that will teach you things you've never imagined that you'd be able to learn, it will challenge you to develop, give you wonderful memories, and inspire you to grow.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Two experiences and one distinct feeling stand out from my five amazing weeks at Earth Studies.

The first one may sound terrifying to those unexperienced: Kirk, the Cushing progeny whom I spent most days working with, and I spent the night in a snow quincy that we built but we just happened to pick a night where the temperature outside dipped to around -30 degrees Celsius. The lesson was an important one though: I slept soundly and warmly all night in the shelter and now know how to survive a night like that on my own.

A more anecdotal experience came from one of my rides with Geoffrey, the father. We accidentally led the dogs onto a new trail that Kirk and I had not finished clearing and ended up dumped in the snow with the dogs gleefully taking a lap of the trail before coming back.

The feeling I most remember is the crisp air on my face, whether on my walk from the lodge to the main house every morning, looking out at the frozen lake, or on the back of the sled, whipping around corners and up and down hills.

My time there was truly an incomparable experience. The Cushings are wonderful and welcoming, their dogs are amazing, their are animals everywhere, you won't eat better food anywhere, and you will never sleep better or feel overall healthier than at Earth Studies. Back in the grind of studying, I often think about the nights at the Hotel Ladysmith or at town hockey night (where I learned how to skate) or the mornings spent with the dogs. I can't wait to go back and visit soon and drink mass quantities of Bodum coffee with the Cushings again.

Yes, I recommend this program
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We were on our way up to the top of a 10,000 foot summit in Waterton, Alberta and we came across a glacier lake surrounded by massive snowbanks. We were walking alongside the base of a snowbank when we saw a small hole large enough for us to crawl into. Once inside it opened up to a vast snow cave with icy walls, shimmering with the small amount of light that was glowing through the snow. It had a small river fed by a waterfall from all the ice melt and was something out of a fairytale. I felt like an explorer hired by National Geographic. It's Amazing what mother nature can hide from you. All it takes to find it is a little curiosity.

What would you improve about this program?
Maybe an anonymous suggestion box for students who are too shy to take part in the program meetings. Other than that the program is perfect!
Yes, I recommend this program

On August 24, 2015, I embarked upon a journey that has not ended, and hopefully never will. After much anticipation and complaining (I hate being away from home), I boarded a plane that flew me out of Philadelphia and arrived in Ottawa approximately one hour later. Once through customs, I came across a sign with a symbol that looked familiar. I whipped out my phone and quickly looked up the International School for Earth Studies logo, and there it was: an oak leaf with the head of an eagle embedded in the grooves. I tentatively walked over, and soon exited with three other young ladies. An older, but young-looking lady (Jo Ellen) drove a massive truck to where we were standing, and we all piled in. My adventure had just begun.

After a few minutes in the truck, it was apparent that Jo Ellen was one of the coolest women I had ever met. When we arrived on site, the other student greeted us, along with the rest of the Cushing family: Goeffrey, Derek, Kirk, Corie Jo (CJ), and Janna Lee. For the next week, we hiked, or did something outdoorsy, every day. It was awesome. I learned how to make a fire, and tips to survive should I ever be stranded in the wilderness. I spent more time "in the bush" than I had in my entire life. When that first week-ish was over, the other four students left with Geoffrey and CJ for their cross-country Canadian road trip. I stayed behind with Kirk, Janna Lee, and Jo Ellen. (Derek was in university in Ottawa and came home on weekends). By the time they left, I was enjoying the budding friendships I had with both the other students and our hosts, but I was excited to see what the last two-ish weeks had in store for me. I was not to be disappointed.

Kirk and I were already best buds, but Jo Ellen became my second mom, Janna Lee my sister, and Derek my brother in less than a week. From working with the twenty huskies (plus three house dogs and three house cats), to riding the horses Parelli-style (only a back pad and a rope halter), to playing with the rescued raccoons, to feeding the fawns, to taking out the rowboat on the lake, to simply hanging out at the house and the lodge, I could not get enough. I photographed almost every moment and almost every animal. We worked with the huskies pretty much every day, and that soon became my favorite activity. It was so rewarding; it was easy to identify how much progress I was making with these twenty incredible dogs because I was able to tell all twenty of them apart, and they started responding to my cues and body language. I quickly bonded with the shyest dog in the pack, to everyone's surprise. No matter whether I was cleaning kennels or mucking the stables, I had a purpose. Everything I did was valued, and everything I did was fun. Friends of the family came for a few days at a time, and I soon became very well acquainted with them as well. From swimming in the water to swimming in the mud, these people, in addition to the Cushings, became my favorite people in the world.

After a whirlwind two weeks filled with love and sweat, the tears came when I departed. I never wanted to leave this place, this pseudo-farm that had become my second home. Prior to this experience, I had never had a place at which I felt I could stay forever. I had always not been able to wait to go home, but this was different: this time I could not wait to go back.

Yes, I recommend this program


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