Coolest place to go to school in the world: Haida Gwaii semester winds down

  • Apr. 18, 2011 9:00 a.m.

By Alex Northcott–They compared and correlated data, spent time in the forest, and made connections in the communities. And then last Friday they presented their findings to a crowd of about 70 people at Skidegate’s Kaay Centre.There was no shortage of discussion on everything they learned, ranging from feral cows and sea otters to agro-forestry and Haida cultural values, as the second Haida Gwaii Semester in Natural Resources came to a close.The fourteen students, from all over Canada including three from Haida Gwaii, spent the semester researching topics that relate directly to Haida Gwaii and the environment, everything from forest to sea to sustainable management and development. Their main focus was on ecological perspectives, environmental management and Haida land use and stewardship. They looked at communities all over the globe and studied deer meat in New Zealand, experiential learning in Alaska, polyethylene degradation in Japan and industrial logging in Burns Lake. To show the benefits, downfalls, successes and potential the islands have to offer.”I’ve been inspired to make change at the community level…my intent, is to address opportunities and evaluate management options,” said Erin Alexiuk as she presented Community Forestry on Haida Gwaii: Towards sustainable community development.”…Community champions are needed…can we unite to improve environmental and community well-being? What will this framework look like?” she concluded, after listing comparisons between Haida Gwaii and some working community forests in BC.”The coolest place to go to school in the world,” was the conclusion Melissa Lesko, Amanda Taylor and Mathews Stanley came to after presenting a strong case for experiential learning in school. The presentation, Establishing a Sense of Place: A story of Mount Moresby Adventure Camp, may provide a platform for BC students to start enjoying approved curriculum that involves more nature, more fun, and has a more lasting value. “Curriculum doesn’t involve nature, and this leads to a nature-deficit disorder…culture needs to be included…it needs to be a hands-on approach which is experiential.” Islander Tauren Collinson and his classmate Janine Welton researched a community forestry plot outside Charlotte run by the SKIFFF Program.A common thread of discussion in many of the presentations was the effect deer have on the under-story. The plot, they say, has potential for successful deer exclosures and could be a great sight for growth of several berry species. According to the pair, community forests are feasible here and can help bring people together, and can contribute to sustainable forest practices. Both agreed what is really needed is for the communities to come together and work on existing and future sites suitable for agro-forestry.A common sight on the back roads here are those protective plastic tree guards that help to prevent browsing by deer while the tree grows. Seb Dalgarno thought it was worth looking into and questioning the impacts the tubes could have if left in the forest after being removed from the trees. His main focus was on the Ecotube, a polyethylene tube that is supposed to bio-degrade after seven to ten years. The main process by which the tube degrades is photo degradation. He estimated that there are approximately 500,000 of the tubes on island. Mr. Dalgarno said that while the tubes do break down, they never fully degrade and just end up being smaller and smaller pieces of plastic that end up in the soil and watersheds. His conclusion was that the effects of the chemical leaching on the forest and ocean are unknown, and that by removing and reusing the tubes the impact on the environment could be reduced and the cost of labour would be nearly equal to the cost of ordering new product.If drying and bagging mushrooms wasn’t enough, Travis Pawlak suggested the Haida Gwaii Culinary Co-op ought to dry and sell venison. He said there are plenty deer here, that they over-browse and hunters and the community could benefit from such an enterprise. “If it’s gonna happen, it will happen here,” he said.In closing, it was said that “it really is the community support that makes these projects.” Congratulations to all the students on their successful completion of the Haida Gwaii Semester in Natural Resource Studies and thanks to the communities that supported them through it.

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