June/July 2011

Seeing is believing

A new approach to educating the public about mining

By Hartley Butler George


Teachers receive a safety briefing before entering Xstrata’s Nickel Rim South Mine located within the City of Greater Sudbury

The future of mining in Canada relies on the next generation: their skills, education and passion will determine the success of the industry.

Bill Steer, the general manager and “originator” of the Canadian Ecology Centre – a leading environmental science and outdoor education centre – recently created a unique program that he hopes will have a hand in the future of mining. Unlike so many workshops that focus on students, Steer has crafted a different approach: educating their teachers.

The Teachers Tour program aims to help educators make informed choices about what they teach. “Over the lifetime of the working teacher, think about how many students they might affect in a year,” says Steer. “Now, imagine over a lifetime.”

The program includes visits to the sites and businesses that are shaping the mining industry, so that the knowledge gained can be incorporated into the curriculum. Now in its second year, the five-day program will begin on August 15 in Mattawa, Ontario. Thirty participants from elementary and secondary schools will visit historic and modern mine sites, equipment manufacturers, listen to guest speakers and meet professionals in the industry. They will learn about reclamation projects, green initiatives and how the industry has improved from an environmental standpoint. They will also gain a better perspective on the economic and social impact that mining has on Canada, by seeing what mining can do for Northern communities.

Ann Jackson, the science program leader and lead teacher for the Environment – Specialist High Skill Major Program at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School in Russell, Ontario, participated in last year’s program. “The tour gave really good examples of the vast range of jobs and skills that are required in the mining industry, and how so many of these skills are transferable to other fields,” she says. “Students in the classroom do listen when a teacher is knowledgeable about something – especially if they have some photos to back it up.”

Steer says that for the teachers, seeing is believing. “Their first reaction is usually ‘I didn’t know that,’ or ‘now I understand about modern sustainable mining,’” he explains.

Last year’s tour received a generous $5,000 donation from CIM’s Metal Mining Society, which will support the Teachers Tour again this year.

The Teachers Tour program requires full sponsorship, and CIM hopes its members will consider donating in any way that they can:

  • Sponsor an individual teacher
  • Provide materials that might be helpful
  • Donate to an aspect of the program (such as transportation or meals)

Contact Bill Steer at bill@canadianecology.ca or 705.744.1715, ext. 570.

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