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Silver Lake Forest Education Centre hosts Festival of Forestry Teachers’ Tour

The Festival of Forestry was delighted to be invited to host our 2018 summer teachers’ tour at the beautiful Silver Lake Forest Education Centre in Peachland this past August. Although known for orchards and vineyards, the Okanagan is also a major forestry centre with a long history of forestry and lumber mills, and two major mills operating today in the metro Kelowna area; one right downtown on the lakeside.

Russ Paton (Silver Lake program director and board member with Evans Lake Forest Education Society) was the tour architect and host for this summer’s tour. The teachers loved him saying, “Russ was extremely knowledgeable and ensured that he provided insights suitable for teachers of all ages”. This was especially important because we had an even split between elementary, intermediate and senior teachers in our group. The Silver Lake Camp and Lodge provided access to outdoor educational walks, a forestry equipment museum, and the gorgeous patio where gourmet meals were served each evening.

As the bus rolled into the Okanagan, the tour officially started with a visit to the Kamloops Forest Education Society Woodlot and West Bank First Nation Community Forest. Here the group saw how logging practices in the woodlot and community forest help to enhance wildlife values—from the smallest mammals to the mighty elk. They also engaged in a discussion about First Nation resource concerns and their success in stabilizing resource employment for both First Nations and non-First Nations community members.

The second day of the tour started with a tour of Gorman Bros. Lumber mill in Kelowna. Here, teachers saw how logs enter a mill at the dry land sort and move through the sawmill and dry kiln where product is cut, dried and prepared for the final customer. One teacher commented, “I was also amazed and thrilled to be invited into a mill—I found the experience to be intense, impressive and educational. The people leading the tour and those invited to speak were all very informative”. Many teachers got to ride in massive log handling equipment, quite the thrill.

In the afternoon the group visited the site of the Mount Eneas Fire (a wildfire that caused highway closures and evacuations this summer) and witnessed the random nature of fire; how some areas are burnt completely while others are left largely untouched. Russ said, “it was awesome and educational to witness the power and random nature of fire and the obvious gargantuan efforts mounted by firefighters to protect homes”. There was much discussion around fire and the role it plays in a healthy forest and the state of fires currently, both in BC and around the world.

Our next stop was a recent logging block. Along the way, we enjoyed an amazing lunch assembled by the teachers at the “Brown Bag Lunch Bar” earlier that morning at the camp. Unfortunately, due to fireweather indices work in the forest was restricted and our teachers didn’t get to see working machines. However, earlier in the season Russ had taken videos on the same site and with equipment demonstrations fresh in their minds from earlier in the tour, he was able to demonstrate for the group how a harvest takes place. The teachers also had an opportunity to examine wildlife retention stands and check in on a replanted forest.

Other tour highlights included a special visit to BEEPS (Bat Education & Ecological Protection Society), an interactive presentation from the Canadian Women in Timber (Ann Polson and Betty-Ann McDonald from the Shuswap Branch) about teaching forestry to young people, and evening presentations from Dave Gill, RPF, General Manager of Forestry, Ntityix Resources LP (Westbank First Nation) and Bryan Darroch, Planning Forester, Gorman Bros. Presenters added tremendous value to our tours, as one teacher told us, “coming from an elementary teacher standpoint, I got a lot out of the BEEPS and Canadian Women in Timber presentation - learning I could take into the classroom right away.”

Russ saved the best for last, before the teachers departed for home, they had a chance to try their hand at being a real life logger, participating in a classic logger sports competition!

Based on feedback from our participants, this was another successful tour. As one teacher put it, “the Festival of Forestry Tour has been one of the best Pro-D sessions that I have ever had. The information that was shared and the knowledge of those sharing it was top-notch. Learning from people in the field and being able to visit sites such as a recently felled patch was very informative. This tour gave a balanced approach to what is happening in the field and allowed us to ask many questions and to be able to make our own opinions of what is happening. I highly recommend the Festival of Forestry to any educator, regardless of their subject matter or grade level taught.”

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