Teachers exchange classroom for forest

About 20 teachers spent three days learning about forestry management in the northern Saskatchewan borea forest. The programs aims to have the teachers incorporate what they learn into the curriculum. (Courtesy Ministry of Environment)

Bianca Bharti, Daily Herald

About 20 teachers returned Thursday from a three-day forestry tour, where they learned about ecology and forest management.

The tour ended with a helicopter ride, where the teachers flew over a wildfire, learned about forest regeneration and how fires burn.

For Unity Composite High School teacher Jocelyn Clark, the helicopter ride was “absolutely amazing.” She found learning about the various burn and harvest patterns fascinating, but with a specialty in biology, there was another part of the tour she enjoyed the most.

“I was really interested in all the insect and parasite disease activity in trees and how that can naturally impact the forest,” she said.

Now she plans to take all that she learned and teach her students about northern Saskatchewan’s forest industry.

“We wanted to give the teachers a fuller understanding of what forests are in Saskatchewan as well as the forest management that we undertake to sustain those forests,” forest adaptation expert Dwayne Dye said.

The program, which has been running for five years now, aims at providing forestry information for teachers so that they can add it to their curriculums in the upcoming semesters.

Dye mentioned the need for this kind of program, as often the focus lies on agriculture and mining in the province.

Over the course of three days, the teachers learned about jack pine bug infestations, toured a saw mill, learned how areas regenerated after forest fires and were taught about various insects and their impact on the industry.

Dye said most of the teachers enjoyed the last part, as well as the helicopter ride. “We found that the helicopter flight over the fire kind of brought every thing together and people amalgamated all the ideas we presented to them.”

A program like this requires lots of planning, organization and resources, he said. He hopes it will make its way to the classroom so kids gain a better appreciation of the boreal forest.

“We weren’t sure how successful this would be and it really has taken off and we’re really happy with that. It’s just great.”