PHOTO Last semester saw the AHS Natural Resources Technology class become a first-ever dual credit offering, with expanded field work components thanks to Confederation College instructor (and trapper) Albert Clement and his brother Wray, also a trapper. Here Cloud Meekis and Omega Lemieux stretch a pelt under Wray Clement’s guidance, as Sampson, Mike Ducharme, Adam Foy, and Matt Buchan look on. PHOTO BY AHS
For the first time, the AHS Grade 12 Natural Resources Technology course was offered last semester as a dual (high school and college) credit, and ten students got some hands-on training in all aspects of trapping, from trap-setting to skinning the fur bearing animals they caught. (The harvest included beaver, pine marten, and a wolf.)
Atikokan High School teacher David Williams has served as NRT instructor for two decades, and incorporated a range of environmental science and resource management topics, including trapping and forestry, because students are often interested in natural resource management.
Last semester’s partnership with Confederation College allowed for an enhanced, more hands-on field component to the class. Now called the Environment and Resource Management Interdisciplinary Studies course, the class included local trapper Albert Clement as a college instructor for comprehensive instruction on wild fur harvesting. That meant students spent time out on Clement’s trap line, both learning to make their own sets, checking those sets, skinning the animals they caught, and stretching the furs.
“They learned first hand about setting different types of traps, checking them, and skinning, and Wray Clement [Albert’s brother] gave a class demonstration on skinning and the kids got to skin and stretch them,” said Williams.
“Normally [with the high school NRT class] I bring in Albert to the class, but it’s not the same as the kids actually doing it themselves.”
There were some unexpected learning opportunities on the trap line too, such as witnessing the safe release of a fox from a live capture restraint trap that was intended to catch a wolf.
Students were also taught about the new, more humane trap sets now used in the industry, and the whole sustainable harvesting concept: MNR regulated quotas to ensure the population and ratios of male, female, and juvenile animals are managed. In class, Clement also covered the history of trapping.
This course blends a “Natural Resources Technology theme with hands-on practical work into the interdisciplinary studies curriculum,” says the Rainy River District School Board. “It involves the study of a number of disciplines which are an integral part of northern life. Students will be actively engaged in their learning as emphasis will be given to practical research techniques and hands on experience. Students will learn about key components of the north’s economy, ecology and culture by studying the following: dendrology [the study of tree and plant species], wildlife biology and management, photography, taxidermy, forest inventory and mapping, snow ecology, etc.”
Confederation College funds also allowed class visits to local logging operations and instruction from the Atikokan Native Friendship Centre in traditional Aboriginal uses of birch bark, which enabled students to craft miniature birch bark canoes and moose caller ‘megaphones.’
The enhanced NRT class is now the third dual credit offering at Atikokan High School, joining Grade 11 Travel and Tourism, and Hospitality and Tourism.