Whitehorse school program uses trapping as teaching aid

Trapping is being used to teach Yukon students everything from English to social studies to First Nations history.

High school students in Yukon are learning about trapping in unique program that pairs formal education with a traditional northern lifestyle.

The Wood Street Centre's community, heritage, adventure, outdoors and skills program, also known as CHAOS, is a semester long and involves spending nine days on the land.

The 10 Grade 10 students will be learning practical skills, from setting traps safely and humanely to traditional trapping methods and the business of the modern fur trade. When they turn 16, they'll be eligible to apply for a trapping licence. 

But that’s not all they learn, according to one teacher involved in the program.

Chris Hobbis says trapping is just one element of an interconnected curriculum that the practical aspect of trapping brings to life.

I want to be a trapper when I'm older.- Willem Crone, Grade 10 student

“Within the trapping, we're covering stuff that is part of the English curriculum, they're listening, they're reporting, they're speaking, they're having to write and do all these things,” Hobbis said. "This also covers things that are totally a part of the social studies curriculum, and the fur trade, and those kinds of things. So here within our program, nothing is a standalone."

Nine students in the program are from schools across Whitehorse, with one student from Carcross. Many appreciated the hands-on training.

"It's really sticky, kind of, and really cold,” said Haley MacKeown. “And you can feel the muscles kind of when you pull the fur off the tail. You can feel all the bones and the vertebrae kind of cracking, and I liked that.”   

For others, it was a window into a future career.

“I want to be a trapper when I'm older, so this was a really great experience for me to learn how to skin multiple animals and different techniques on doing them for the various species," said Willem Crone. "Going out into the field and learning about ethics and all the business around trapping, and how it all works … it's quite an amazing program." 

Students will soon be heading off on another field trip to put their newly acquired skills to the test with an experienced First Nations trapper.

The program was developed in partnership with the First Nations unit in the Yukon government's education department.