Dryden High School Conservation Course

In the mid 1950s a forward looking group of people in Dryden Ontario recognized a need to provide youth with a background and education in the area of resource conservation and management. Management of the local paper mill along with representatives of the mill’s Woodlands Department, the local Board of Education, Dryden High School along with the Department of Natural Resources combined their knowledge and resources to implement the Dryden High School Conservation Course in 1957.

Since 1957 The Dryden High School Conservation Course has been an annual event. Originally, only students from Grade 10 at Dryden High School participated in the program, but in recent years the program has expanded to allow youth from Southern Ontario to travel to Northwestern Ontario to experience the program and the wilderness. Students are provided with the opportunity to spend three intensive days in the field learning key aspects of resource conservation and management from resource management experts. The stated objective of this unique program is “To broaden understanding of resource management and encourage appreciation of conservation concepts while enjoying three days in an outdoor setting”. Hands-on and interactive approaches to learning are encouraged.

Key elements for conservation include air, water, soil, minerals and forests. Resource use elements and activities that have been presented include water resources, minerals and mining, agriculture, hydro-electric generation, aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, wildlife, and forestry. Specific elements of forestry include harvesting, renewal, forest inventory, soils, fire management and protection and a forest management planning exercise.

The program instructors are not teachers, but rather experts from local industry and businesses, and have included the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ontario Hydro, and a number of Universities and Colleges. The Ontario Forestry Association has been a key partner and continues to support the program, as well as numerous independent volunteers who have willingly contributed their time and resources.

Domtar provides a professional forester as lead mentor for the three day program guiding students as they learn about harvesting, regeneration, stakeholder values and what it takes to be environmentally responsible in the forest. Domtar also hosts the students to a full day in active harvesting operations.

The intent of this program is to increase the student’s awareness of resource use and the challenges that are presented in resource management. Each student is provided with a stakeholder role to enhance their learning experience. Roles such as foresters, trappers, tourist operators, anglers, hunters and First Nations are assigned to the students in order for them to gather knowledge from that assigned perspective. The concluding activity at the end of program is for the stakeholders to work together to produce a forest management plan that addresses the needs of the stakeholders and First Nations.

The program provides students with a strong cross section of resource management and sustainability concepts. It is worth noting that many of the students who have participated in the Dryden High School Conservation Course have gone on to pursue higher education and careers in the field of resource management. Alumni of the Dryden High School Conservation Course include professional foresters, biologists, ecologist, geologists, engineers, agronomists and many others who have pursued careers in resource management or related fields.