By Brad Donaldson
As some readers may know, last year I followed the revealing of the Doris and Jack McLachlan Bothy.
The bothy stands on Six Mile Brook Trail—a trail that is part of the Cape to Cape trail system—and was constructed by community volunteers and a number of high school students in the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board.
Many of those students came from the North Nova Education Centre, in New Glasgow, and were led by a name mentioned in last year’s piece: Andrew Parsons.
He was and still is a driving force behind the creation, maintenance, and constant improvement of this unique overnight shelter.
So, last week I attended one of these student outings to see the bothy for myself.
* * *
As a life-long mountain biker, Parsons enjoys bringing students out of a traditional school setting and into the natural world to explore different ways of learning. Along the trail, his age doesn’t show. He trucks through the babbling river in rubber boots and excitedly points out strands of trees, asking students—between grades ten to twelve—if they remember the names.
Working with the school’s Career Exploration Program (CEP)—an alternative learning program—Parsons teaches Building Systems, which focuses on the hands-on side of things: construction, electrical, landscape, etc.
In the past, and under Parsons’ supervision, students built a number of timber frame trail kiosks for the area. So when a friend mentioned the first tentative idea of an overnight shelter in the same area, Parsons saw students as a perfect fit to help with the project.
In Parsons’ eyes, students would not only learn tangible skills constructing the shelter, but also have the chance to “contribute back to the community [in a way] that would have a long-lasting impact.”
“I think that problem solving, and approaching community projects, is beneficial not only to the community but to individuals because it gives them a sense of place and belonging, and ownership,” Parson adds. “But also, in their own future, they can see a role for how they might envision being connected in the greater community.”
In high school, teenagers are often trying to find their thing and fit in. But projects such as the Doris and Jack McLachlan Bothy have given students a chance to try something new, something in an area they might not normally travel to.
In the midst of all the work happening around the bothy that day, Parsons mentions a story of a student who, after working on the bothy, brought their family out to the area for a hike— something the family had never done before—to show off the accomplishment.
Parsons hopes that his students “choose to do [similar ventures] in their future so we see more people in wilderness, taking advantage of these wild places we have on our doorstep.”
Because, he says, the benefits are developing right before his eyes.