On a cold and cloudy Thursday morning, 22-students and three instructors bundled into three cars, to make the nearly five hour drive to Mattawa, to attend the Faculty of Forestry’s four-day annual field camp at the Canadian Ecology Center.
A good forestry course cannot be taught indoors. A great forestry course, like the one at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Forestry, is not just taught outdoors but has field camps in all seasons. I believe, there are three reasons for this: getting to experience the forest in different seasons, getting a better view of different silvicultural practices such as single-tree selection and shelterwood in winter when trees have no leaves and getting a new perspective by listening, asking questions and watching people from the MNR, Algonquin Forestry Authority, Tembec, Canadian Institute of Forestry and other organizations.
Quite a few of us in the MFC program do not have a forestry or environmental science background. While we have learned a lot, we do not have the vast knowledge, yet, that comes with experience and training to ask questions that will expand our horizons. And it is here that we realize what a treasure we have in our professors who ask questions that not only elicit answers but help us think outside the … forest, so to speak. One of the most interesting things at this camp was understanding the confluence of new technology – LiDAR, satellites and drones and old-school forest management practices.
At the end of each day when the last slide was presented, the final pair of snow shoes was stacked upright to dry out, the last spoon of dessert eaten and the last snowball for the day thrown at an unwitting friend we sat down to relax – playing “Things” or Dominion or simply sitting around with classmates discussing the presentations of the day over an ice-cold beer.
This winter camp not only introduced new perspectives and ideas, it helped us, at least some of us who hadn’t done this before, experience new things like snowshoeing and dogsledding. Someone recently said to me, that learning new ways of thinking and approaching the world is not always without pain. On this MFC camp, as with other MFC camps and classes, learning “new ways of thinking and approaching the world” was not just painless, it was a pleasure. To listen to professors ask professionals questions so we can better understand the world we will be stepping into, to engage our senses in different ways and to hold us higher so we can see further … we appreciate it.