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Expanding Our Roots

High School Career Training- Mount Sentinel Secondary's Forestry Program 

Dave Olynyk, Instructor         

Mount Sentinel is a small rural school of 400 students, grades 7 through 12, located in the West Kootenay. For the past 12 years, we have offered Forestry as a BAF approved senior elective.  The school is on a semestered 4 block timetable with two classes each day. The long class times are effective in facilitating practical courses.  90% of forestry class is spent outside of the classroom.  The course is a practical, work-skills oriented course with a focus on silviculture.

The course content includes a compassing, traversing and mapping unit of about 30 hours.  WorkSafe BC provides a session on "young-worker safety" in the workplace, with emphasis on forestry.  Certified instructors train the students in WCB Level 1 First Aid with the Transportation Endorsement, and Fire Suppression 100/185.  On TFL #3, with the supervision of technicians, the students will spend at least one day tree planting and one day pruning.  We also do an extensive unit training the students in the proper use and care of a chainsaw.  A certified chainsaw trainer spends a day with the students, instructing chainsaw maintenance and proper bucking technique.  We will then spend about 40 hours practicing safe use of the chainsaw by bucking and splitting two loads of snags into firewood.  An optional day of training in making undercuts and felling trees is offered.  As a culminating practicum, after exams, the students spend a week on the TFL brushing deciduous growth with chainsaws on a planted site.

Students, both boys and girls, of all backgrounds take the course.  Some intend careers in this field; others are looking for summer employment while going on to further education, while others are just looking for experience with work skills to supplement job applications.  Scheduling for students is difficult, as there are at least 8 days students miss other classes with commitments to this class. At best, we muddle our way through these conflicts.  The week of brushing after exams, rather than being considered a hardship, has a fun reputation somewhat similar to that of summer camp.

Assessment has both a self and teacher component and was derived from an industry employee "performance and development review".  Elements of the assessment include work standards, planning and problem solving, group co-operation, communication, and willingness to learn. 

Especially important is the financial and technical support we receive from the local forest industry, in general and Springer Creek Forest Products, in particular.  Without their support, this course would not be able to function.

The course is a good opportunity to highlight industry and schools working cooperatively together.  The response to the course from the community has been very positive.  Students from families who may have a negative attitude towards the forest industry are exposed to quite a different perspective, either directly or indirectly, from students taking the course.  Students, especially those with weaker academic skills, develop a much more positive attitude towards school in general, as a result of their increased sense of achievement and inclusion associated with this course.

 

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