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Central Okanagan students cutting new career paths in forestry

Forestry program offered by Rutland Senior Secondary

Jayden Shkrabuik and Nova Kidder are like a lot of high school students, who find spending a day in classrooms not always the best incentive for learning.

But Central Okanagan Public Schools offers alternate learning options that extend beyond sitting on a chair behind a desk.

One such different learning path is the school forestry program offered at Rutland Senior Secondary under the instructional leadership of teacher Marshall Corbett.

Shkrabuik and Kidder, both enrolled in the RSS forestry program, appeared before the Okanagan Board of Education meeting last Wednesday (April 24) to illustrate how their participation in the program has forged new career paths they never previously envisioned.

Both talked about the learning excitement that comes from being outdoors four days a week and the lessons in life they are exposed to while learning about trees.

“Spending time outside and not stuck in a classroom” was a common refrain from both students, as was seeing the opportunity for career path opportunities they otherwise would probably have not realized.

Corbett, who joined his two students before the board of education, said the forestry program allows students to build life skills while learning about different forestry skills that can lead to related careers.

A dual credit program, the forestry curriculum is based on certified utility arborist training but can also lead in different forestry sector job directions.

Hands-on skill learning takes on cut block mitigation, tree removal, timber cruising, tree planting and pruning, log scaling, tree falling and the use of a chainsaw.

Corbett said students enrol in the second semester of Grade 11 and continue into the Grade 12 fall semester.

He said the program dates back 34 years at the school but retains a continuity to students today who can see the seedlings planted years ago by those in the program before them, following their growth cycle towards one day becoming mature trees.

Local forest companies like Gorman Bros. and Tolko have also been partners to the program, providing logs for students to develop their chainsaw operation and equipment maintenance skills on at the RSS wood compound, a familiar site to school visitors at the southeast corner of RSS.

Students sharing their knowledge with their younger peers have also proven successful, the most recent example being on April 11 when Grade 3 students from École Glenmore Elementary were given an opportunity to plant trees with the assistance of the forestry students.

The tree planting occurred in an area burned by last summer’s McDougall Creek wildfire, eight kilometres up the Blue Grouse Forest Service Road.

The Grade 3 class was given a safety presentation, learned why they were planting the trees, and how to do it and used the field study exercise to involve other math, science and social-emotional learning aspects.

Kevin Kaardal, Central Okanagan Public Schools superintendent/CEO, said the forestry programs and the dedicated instructional efforts of Corbett are the epitome of how the nature-based learning concept can be defined in the school district.

“What you are doing in promoting learning about our environment, planting (seedlings)…you are living it out there,” Kaardal said.

“You are illustrating how nature-based learning is more than just a course on the curriculum.”

He also noted that tree planting in particular is hard, arduous work, planting seedlings in an unevenly harvested cutblock terrain.

“It is not easy work,” he said.

READ MORE: RSS offers forestry career class

READ MORE: ‘Rising from the ashes’: Planting trees in the Central Okanagan

Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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