A fresh take on forestry education in the Williams Lake area

Bryant Race, education intern for UBC’s Alex Fraser Research Forest, is developing programs for youth and said so far, the setting, which includes a couple of resident sheep. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Bryant Race, education intern for UBC’s Alex Fraser Research Forest, is developing programs for youth and said so far, the setting, which includes a couple of resident sheep. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Bryant Race, education intern for UBC’s Alex Fraser Research Forest, entertains the students during a ProD day activity in a Robinhood-style costume. (Aimee Yang, UBC Alex Fraser Research Forest photo)Bryant Race, education intern for UBC’s Alex Fraser Research Forest, entertains the students during a ProD day activity in a Robinhood-style costume. (Aimee Yang, UBC Alex Fraser Research Forest photo)

Connecting students with each other and the outdoors is one of the key goals of a new program planned to start at the UBC Alex Fraser Research Forest (AFRF) offices on Fox Mountain.

AFRF offices, tucked into a secluded spot on what was a sheep farm on top of Fox Mountain, is an idyllic setting which Bryant Race is making even more youth-friendly for year-round outdoor education.

“Everything we can do to get people excited and get people outside,” said Race, who hales from New York State and has a strong background in outdoor education.

With a Masters Degree in Education for Sustainability, Race is also an Outward Bound instructor.

Race moved to B.C. two years ago for grad school at UBC. He had been wanting to move to B.C. after travelling to Squamish to rock climb.

He then came up to Williams Lake to take the job as an education intern at the AFRF.

His role is to bring the lakecity and area something like Wild & Immersive, a program he worked with at the UBC Research Forest in Maple Ridge near Golden Ears Provincial Park.

The program in the Lower Mainland offers a forest school to “allow children the chance to explore, interact, learn and have fun in the natural world alongside their peers,” according to the website.

The school programs target students from pre-school through to high school.

The Williams Lake programs are just in the early stages after Covid-related challenges and his late arrival caused Race to take a step back from trying to jump straight into offering full programs.

Instead, his program will begin by working with the school board.

So far, Race has hosted two Pro-D days for students, with the latest one before Halloween seeing 28 students enjoying outdoor learning in the form of a murder mystery.

While he doesn’t necessarily have a background in forestry, Race knows education and how to engage students in the outdoors and did study biology and ecology as part of his degree.

“You can be the most knowledgeable person in your field but without the right interpretation or content for the audience, it’s meaningless,” said Race, recalling a nanoscience class he had with a knowledgeable instructor, where he left the class knowing next to nothing about the subject.

He is learning every day himself, heading out into the field when he can with some of the UBC AFRF staff and getting experience with some of their work on forest health.

Williams Lake and the Cariboo have some great ecological programs for youth, said Race, with Scout Island Nature programs and Gavin Lake Forestry Camp educating many students.

But he also sees some opportunities to fill in with programs for different ages not necessarily being targeted or providing opportunities for different outdoor activities or at different times of year.

“I don’t want to compete with them,” he said, aiming instead at complementing and expanding on what is offered.

Students of all ages have also been some of the worst hit by the impacts of COVID-19, with many students separated from peers and social groups more than ever before, and Race sees outdoor education as being a key in healing some of the damage.

“That’s basically what outdoor ed is, building those personal relationships,” he said, referencing rock climbing’s close partnerships, outdoor trip group dynamics and risk and hazard assessments.

He hopes to be able to bring more opportunities for Outward Bound-type activities to area students. When the students begin to learn and explore on their own and he is just providing safety and support Race feels like he is succeeding as an outdoor educator.

“Any kind of behavioural issues disappear.”

READ MORE: Wood chipper trials underway at UBC Alex Fraser Research Forest



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Wood chipper trials underway at UBC Alex Fraser Research Forest

Read More: UBC Alex Fraser Research Forest manager retiring after three decades



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