Reflections from the Koh-Learning program

UNBC's Koh-Learning team reflected on their unique collaborative learning program centred around the waterways in the Nechako watershed during a Research Week special presentation.

March 7, 2023
photo shows six people smiling for the camera
UNBC researchers and School District 91 graduates presented on the Koh-Learning in our Watersheds program during Research Week. (Front row, left to right: Dr. Margot Parkes, Tavia McKinnon, Jordan Cranmer and Barry Booth. Back row, left to right: Tynan Filan and Ronan Blattner.)

Researchers and participants involved in a collaborative project involving UNBC, School District 91 Nechako Lakes and community partners shared their reflections during a Research Week special presentation in the Bentley Centre.

The Koh-Learning in our Watersheds program is a multidisciplinary research project that aims to connect students in SD 91 with each other, their communities and their local waterways through hands-on outdoor learning. Koh (waterways in Dakelh) provides a central, connecting focus that brings together students, educators, researchers and local community members in unique learning environments throughout the SD91 catchment, the Nechako watershed and beyond.

Health Sciences Professor Dr. Margot Parkes talked about the diversity across the School District and watershed noting that there are 14 First Nations within the catchment area of School District 91 – the most in any school district in the province. Parkes said the program’s goals are to connect students in SD 91 to each other, their communities and their waterways – drawing on different types of knowledge to create informed stewards who are engaged in their local environment and communities. “What we do with schools has amazing ripple effects,” said Parkes.

Barry Booth is a biologist and research associate for Koh-learning program who supports students, teachers and community liaison, and said it’s incredible to see how the original vision of ‘just getting kids into creeks’ has turned into a program that’s transforming learning at the individual and community level.

Both Tynan Filan and Ronan Blattner had the opportunity to do summer research through the program while they were students at Nechako Valley Secondary School (NVSS) in Vanderhoof. They spent the summer collecting data from the streams in the Nechako watershed.

“For me, it felt like a project I was passionate to work on, more than a job,” said Filan. “Seeing these intricate waterways gave me a good understanding of how waterways work and it was interesting to know my community on this level.”

Blattner said, “The impact of having the opportunity to do university research was amazing and solidified my passion – I want to go into fieldwork. I got to see all these things I would have never seen.”

Jordan Cranmer graduated from NVSS and is now pursuing her Bachelor of Health Science degree majoring in Community and Population Health: Environmental Health. She said being involved as a research assistant in the Koh-Learning program has made her appreciate sharing spaces where there’s less differentiation between learner and educator.

Graduate researcher Tavia McKinnon agreed the program facilitates reciprocal learning. McKinnon is working towards a Master of Social Work degree and said it’s been fulfilling to be part of an interdisciplinary team. She highlighted a summer school program in Fort St. James that she and Barry Booth participated in last summer. Together with local educators and knowledge holders and representatives from the First Nations Health Authority and BC Parks, they spent one day with students in a local creek and a second in a nearby forest. “I think this is a good example of what Koh-learning wants to do,” she said. “Support what’s already going on in local communities.”

UNBC students interested in finding out more about becoming involved in the program are encouraged to contact or visit the Koh-learning website.