October 24, 2016 – The Verna J Kirkness Education Program was founded in 2009, and was designed to increase the number of Aboriginal students in science programs. This past spring saw the first year of this program at UBC, with eight grade 11 students spending one week at the Faculty of Forestry working on science projects. Students were supported by professors, undergraduate and graduate students, and staff – with mentors outnumbering the students. The students and mentors got a hands on experience about the forest by visiting the Faculty of Forestry’s Malcolm Knapp Research Forest in Maple Ridge.
Jayme from Grindrod and Mary from Skidegate worked with Lori Daniels in her tree ring lab, researching the properties of western red cedar. The students analyzed a cross section of an old-growth cedar that was being carved into a canoe by the Musqueam Nation. Jayme and Mary found out that the tree was over 350 years old, originally from Vancouver Island, and cut in 2013.
Professor Lori Daniels said, “the week was very rewarding to me. We had the opportunity to meet the carvers and learn about the cultural significance of the Musqueam canoe. We spent a day doing ecological fieldwork and then worked in the lab analyzing tree rings. I was really impressed with how quickly Jayme and Mary learned – using power tools, running computer programs, interpreting results and finding really cool outcomes”.
Another group of students, Samantha, from Salmon Arm, and Faith, from Powell River, worked in Sue Grayston’s soils lab, researching the properties of different varieties of soil. The students collected soil samples to later analyze in the lab. While out in the field, they practiced soil texturing and vegetation analysis.
In Julie Cool’s lab, Amun, from Lake Country, and Olivia, from Quesnel, worked in the Centre for Advanced Wood Processing making their own custom veneer projects. They learned how to sand, press, and finish wood products alongside technicians and also visited 2 local sawmills.
During the week-long program the students lived on campus, studied along side other students, and received a feel for the university life. In some cases it helped students overcome doubts of leaving their hometowns to study in Vancouver. Faith shared, “it for sure makes me want to join the post-secondary club. Dorms weren’t too scary”.
The week ended with the students sharing the results of their science projects with all students and professors in the program. The professors also learned from the students. Sue Grayston shared, “whether or not the students carry on with forestry, the program helps the students think about other subjects that they can do and about the wider applicability of science subjects to study as well as the broad range of careers you can have as a result.”
The week was a great learning experience for students and faculty, and we hope to see these students at UBC next year!
For further information, contact Andrea Lyall, the Faculty of Forestry’s Aboriginal Initiatives Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: ‘Aboriginal High School Students Experience UBC Forestry’, Faculty of Forestry newsletter Branchlines, Vol 27 No 3, Fall 2016.