What do pigs, geocaching, birddogs and triangles have in common? They were all part of a five-day, hands-on forest ecology camp was held from May 27th to June 1st for high school students at Sandy Lake, located between Hay River and Fort Smith.
The camp is part of the larger Keepers of the Land program, founded in 2011 by Lois Philipp, then principal at Deh Gah School in Fort Providence:
“The focus is to create experiential based learning opportunities for youth … to build environmental stewardship. We live in an incredible part of the world, and if we can get our kids out into it in an environment that teaches them to appreciate it and respect it and use it well, then those are lessons that they can take with them.”
This year, eight students from Fort Providence and Fort McPherson worked side by side with a variety of professionals in the forest ecology field, from foresters to farmers.
Students learned how to: identify tree species, calculate the volume of a forest, use a map and a compass, FireSmart a property, start AND put out a fire using the fire triangle, and how to melonball a fire hose! For many students, the highlight was the fire crew who gave them the chance to try out firefighting equipment, including hose and Wajax packs. While learning how the fire crews operate on the ground, students saw first-hand how bird dogs and Electras (two types of firefighting aircraft) work together in the air to bomb a fire.
The week was rounded off with an experience of different ways to look at forests. Students met with Brad Mapes, CEO of Aurora Wood Pellets Ltd., to see what the future pellet operation near Enterprise will look like. They also met with Jackie Milne, president of the Northern Farm Training Institute, who talked about the relationships and the possibilities with farms and forests.
“It was awesome, I loved it. I liked learning about fire behaviour and FireSmart, as well as learning how to make a fire and how to put it out. I want go back and meet more new people again!”
-Jacqueline Bouvier, Student Participant