With the winter weather being quite dreary and the challenges brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty members in the Forest and Natural Areas Management (FNAM) program wanted to bring some extra joy and fun to students in their program this spring. In a typical year, students in both first and second year usually get the opportunity to go on overnight field trips to visit different locations in BC, such as Kamloops, Chilliwack and Whistler, but with concerns and safety issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was not possible.
Creating a fun and interactive virtual learning environment
Luckily, faculty and staff in the FNAM program found a way to inject fun and creativity into the virtual space by re-envisioning the format of applied learning and teaching.
As learned over the last year, within challenging times, there is also the opportunity to be creative and innovative. Hélène Marcoux, brainchild of other collaborative initiatives such as the Two-Day Challenge, proposed a collaborative mini-conference style event that took the challenge we were facing and turned it into an opportunity.
The mini-conference event required instructors in both first and second year to create room in their courses to accommodate a special schedule for three days in May. Faculty members from FNAM reached out to local industry members to schedule a series of online guest speakers and in-person field sessions. There were a wide range of topics including mushroom identification, drone (RPAS) use, and even a guided tree climbing and canopy tour. Associate Dean Brett Favaro provided a compelling talk on climate change, a keynote speaker highlights for many students. Local industry members, like arborists from Bartlett Tree Experts and insect specialists from the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency, participated in this event, which helped make this event extra special and meaningful to the students.
Students seldom have flexibility in their program schedule – FNAM is like other cohort-based programs at BCIT. With this mini-conference, students were given the ability to choose their schedule, by offering concurrent sessions over 3 days. Students were empowered to choose their own schedule. Faculty also created field opportunities that included aspects of learning that were missed during the original lockdown last March. It also created an avenue for FNAM students from first and second year to socialize and create new and lasting bonds with each other.
Students described the week as being a “great break in the routine” and that “It felt empowering to have the opportunity to choose an event that interested me – I fell in love with the program all over again, and I loved being able to meet more FNAM students.” Overall the FNAM mini-conference was a huge success and demonstrated the potential benefits of adapting during these challenging times.
Thank you to all students, faculty, and staff involved in making the program extra fun!
The Forest and Natural Areas Management (FNAM) program is a two-year diploma program with a focus on forestry, vegetation management, arboriculture for supporting sustainable community development in both rural and urban environments. Learn more about the FNAM program.