Help Take Students out of the Classroom

To hear students talk about their experiences at Forestry Field School, you’d think they were describing something a lot more, well, transcendent. “A fantastic opportunity,” they say. “Amazing.” “Has deeply enriched my life.” “Invaluable.”

Field School is an important milestone in a student’s forestry education. After two to three years of classroom courses in basic sciences, ecology, silviculture, hydrology, and much more, Field School moves the learning environment to the forest.

There, students integrate their course learning, develop powerful observation and diagnostic skills, and work in teams to develop forest management strategies. This experiential learning is a priority for the Faculty, and reflects a commitment to providing a beneficial mix of classroom and field-based instruction.

Students report that Field School has an enormous impact on their academics. Hugh, a fourth-year student in National Resources Conservation, said, “Field School has given me the assurance that the forest industry in British Columbia is where I want to grow my career.”

Brett, another NRC student, said, “Field School gave me with the opportunity to apply my classroom learning to real world scenarios and build on my scientific understanding.”

Employers, such as Mauro Calabrese of West Fraser, recognize the value Field School adds to a student’s experience. “Getting hands-on field camp experience helps forestry graduates contribute right away when they come to work in the forest industry, because they already have field skills that are assets to future employers,” he says.

But Field School is expensive. On average it costs each student between $800 and $1800, depending on the number and location of Field Schools they attend. This effectively increases the cost of their academic year by 13-16%. For many students, covering this fee is stressful, impacting their studies or forcing them to juggle part-time jobs.

Paul Lawson, Director of UBC’s Research Forests, has been concerned about Field School fees for many years. “Every year I see students who are dreading Field School rather than looking forward to it, because they have to take on a part-time job or scrimp and save to afford the fee,” he says. “I saw that at University of California Berkeley they were able to fund a five-week field school entirely through donations, and I became convinced we could do the same thing at UBC.”

Our ultimate goal is to eliminate Field School fees entirely through an endowment we call the Field School Fund. This fund kicked off last year and we are extremely grateful to the donors who have contributed to date, but we are still short of our goal and need your help.

This year, 350 students attended Field School, which is up considerably from 2016. Five Forestry programs have mandatory Field Schools, and this hands-on experience is becoming more popular all the time with students who want to take it as an option through elective field school offerings.

Please consider making a donation to the Forestry Field School Fund. You can help ensure that students can immerse themselves in practical, hands-on learning without the stress and worry of affordability.