I was a former teacher candidate through the University of British Columbia - Okanagan Campus. I was privileged enough to be placed at AIAO, under the guidance of Rob, Caitlin, Murray, and nearly 50 inspiring youth. My lens of life, the trajectory of how I teach will forever be changed within the ever evolving walls of AIAO. I since seek schools that allow for the breadth of experiences that aliven, challenge, and expand not just the students, but those who take up the opportunity to work in collaboration. A truly co created structure that reflects the students interests and needs all while building community connections so that youth not just see themselves in the learning but feel empowered to be part of the learning community.

When I invited my cousin to teach a mini lesson on medicinal teas, she had told me she wishes there was a school like this for her when she grew up. As well, she noted the ability for the students to share and be so articulate was something she had never seen before in a class. I echo those words in that when students are part of a place that truly require your voice to move forward, and you are in a safe space to explore your skills passions and various paths, students are excited to share their insights and creations. I was able to bring forward and explore what my role and responsibilities would be at AIAO. I was able to infuse my background and create different in-situ’s getting to see how we could create a theatre class outside at Polson Park. We started our program for 3 months outside! I learned how to teach an Anatomy Physiology class at the rock climbing centre, pulling real-life experience into understanding how our body moves.

Leaving AIAO was a tearful experience, hearing 50 people you care about share thoughtful and heart filled sentiments in a circle is something I recommend everyone experiencing once in their life. This place was filled with creative critical thinkers who live with their hearts. This place allows people to come alive.

With much gratitude,


Alabama - Family Member

AIAO is a unique program as it operates on inquiry based learning, which allows youth to be

actively engaged in their learning and growth. Over the past several years, this program has

completely reshaped my brother’s experience of the public school system.

The teachers and support staff at AIAO invest in their students by creating a dynamic

environment where the students feel safe to take risks and challenge themselves. In particular,

rather than having to follow guidelines or templates entirely, students are encouraged to pursue

their own ideas as to how they wish to present their learning content. Not only this, but in-depth

feedback is provided. This feedback acknowledges and highlights the specific decisions the

students made in their learning path, which reinforces self-advocacy and self-awareness; two

themes the program strives to achieve.

An example my brother shared with me was that earlier this year a teacher acknowledged how

much better his group presentation was due to them suggesting a different presentation method.

Their decision to present the research in such a manner resulted in a more significant impact

than had they simply followed the provided outline. This is just one instance of AIAO’s success

in fostering an environment where critical thinking leads to confidence building, which will have

an influence that will reach far further than the classroom for the youth who are fortunate to be a

part of this program.

Yours truly,


Sandra - Parent

It is so amazing that School District 22 offers choices like this for our diverse learners. We need even more programs like this!

My daughter has always been a good kid & a good student. She is a human and social rights advocate. She’s an artistic and sensitive little human. She was ‘ok’ in the public school system, but over the past 3 years she lost her “spark”. We toured Awaken Inquiry and Adventure Okanagan in October and she went for a full day in January to make sure it was the right fit for her.

Our daughter’s light is coming back she is truly happy and that makes me happy. AIAO was the right choice for her.

As a parent, I didn’t even know this program was an option for our our kiddo. So glad it was shared with us.


Sandra Karn

Craigs - Parents

My son is in his second year of AIAO. I can honestly say he's thriving! He has grown leaps and bounds these last two years. He is engaged in his learning!! He's becoming more and more confident in his provocations. He is excited to go to school now. In the past he struggled to "fit in" in a regular classroom setting. The way AIAO is set up is an open, inviting environment full of interest based learning opportunities. I truly believe we have found the perfect learning environment for my son and am so very grateful to have this option within SD22. We also fully appreciate the ability to have mentors within the community available to share their passions with the school. Having that in-person, local talent to show hands-on learning is incredible.

Thank you again for all you do and for this program. It's truly life changing for us!!

The Craig family

Sean - UBCO Teacher Candidate

I first heard about AIAO at UBCO (University of British Columbia - Okanagan). As a teaching candidate in the B.Ed program, I was immediately drawn to the experiential nature of the school. The AIAO staff welcomed me with open arms.

Starting in mid-October, I visited AIAO weekly to learn about their school, initially intrigued by their pedagogy. From my very first visit, I learned the AIAO community was more than just an experiential school: they are welcoming, compassionate, and care deeply for their students.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I began one of two practicums (a two and a five week) with AIAO. The AIAO team allowed me the freedom, like the kids, to be myself. The students were open to learning. Together, we dove deeply into my passion, marine biology, as well as cooking international foods, photography, science, and genocide studies. The students are part of a strong community at AIAO in which people care more about each other and their work than I had ever experienced myself in high school.

I cannot express enough my gratitude to AIAO for providing such an influential practicum from which I’ll take lasting memories and friendships.

With hugs,


DAn - Community Mentor

I have been involved with the educational aspect of Museums and Heritage Sites in the Valley since 1980, and continue to contribute to that effort in my position of Curator of the Fintry Estate. I place a high value on the opportunities to introduce students to the world they live in, and will have to caretake, by using actual objects, and experiencing field trips that put those objects into context.

Rob has likewise been involved with education of this nature and I have known of his commitment to this for over five years. His classes have been brought to Fintry, and on those occasions, it has always impressed me that the students are appreciative of the visit, and it is clear that they are able to make their own choice of the topics offered by the collection there. They formulate their own questions based on the experience, and their own interests. I can honestly say that I wish that I had the same opportunity when I was at their age. I encourage Rob to continue his work, and urge all concerned to support it to the fullest.


Curator, The Fintry Estate

Alexis & Chantelle - Community Mentors

Witnessing the direct impact of curiosity led learning on the students is incredibly inspiring. From nature journaling to plant identification to salmon spawning and the impact of watershed pollution, we are always so amazed by the students' hunger for knowledge and ability to make deep, meaningful connections with the natural world. The experiences that the program fosters are priceless. These students are developing into community minded individuals who are going to change the world.

Alexis & Chantelle, Allan Brooks Nature Centre

Bette & Harvey - Family Members

March 26, 2022

Dear AIAO Staff

Our grandson started the AIAO program in September 2020.

Prior to beginning this program, he hated school. Mornings were a struggle for everyone in his home. It was a bit like a war zone! Talking to him about school was simply listening to how much he hated everything about school.

When he began at AIAO we sure had our fingers crossed for at least SOME improvement.

It did not take long to see the change. It has been nothing short of a miracle. It took awhile to adjust, and then we suddenly had this enthused young fellow who likes going to school every day - even loved many of the programs. (When he was supposed to go home during school hours to have a virtual meeting with a doctor, he told his mom he couldn't do that because he would miss a presentation he had to give to the class – At one time ANY excuse to get out of school would have been used). He enjoys telling us about the programs he is in and letting us know his progress. He has pride in his work at school, he has made friends and enjoys life.

His academic progress has been great and we are very pleased and proud.

However the biggest joy has been seeing how this program has changed his life and therefore the lives of all his family.

We are so grateful that programs like this exist, that enable children with diverse needs to learn academically and socially to become productive, valued members of society.

Thank you ...........thank you ...........thank you


Bette and Harvey Craig

Some of these testimonials have been edited for formatting and/or to protect the privacy of parents and students.