Science of smokehouses to be studied at 8th Avenue Learning Centre through hands-on experience

Port Alberni, BC

The students of 8th Avenue Learning Centre, which offers an alternative education program for high school, will soon be building a Nuu-chah-nulth-style smokehouse on the grounds of the school thanks to a grant from Community Futures Fund.

Principal Dave Maher is excited about the project, saying that it will tie in with existing school programs. It will engage the community as students will be required to interview Tseshaht people that have and use traditional smokehouses. Nuu-chah-nulth Education Worker Tamiko Rampanen will facilitate the work that will take place between the school, students, and the people of Tseshaht.

“This is an incredible cultural opportunity; it is hands-on learning where the community becomes the textbook,” said Maher.

According to Maher, the smokehouse will be built on school property, near their Life Garden.

The students, with assistance from Rampanen, will tour Tseshaht smokehouses and interview the owners about construction styles. From there they will draw designs. The lumber is ready to go, and the smokehouse will be built by two small teams of students.

“This is not only a cultural lesson, but also has mathematic and scientific elements – they will be required to do online research and in-person interviews as part of the language arts program,” said Maher.

Once complete, the Learning Centre’s fishing program will be incorporated into the smokehouse.

“In 2021 we did a freshwater fishing program where the youth picked up tools and techniques to harvest freshwater fish in rivers and lakes,” said Maher.

The next step is to expand the program to include the harvest of saltwater fish. The students learn a variety of methods to harvest fish from recreational rod and reel to commercial fishing techniques, thanks to partnerships with First Nations and local agencies.

With the smokehouse, students will learn to cut, prepare and preserve fish by smoking and/or canning. Students from local elementary schools will drop by on field trips to observe the work being done on the smokehouse as part of their learning process.

Maher says it’s about food sustainability. With the help of community mentors, students will learn how to catch, prepare and preserve their fish.

Partners for the program include the NTC’s Usma Nuu-chah-nulth Family and Child Services, School District 70 and the Alberni Drug & Alcohol Prevention Service. Community Futures provided a grant of $6,000 for the project.

“It’s a great project and I’m grateful for the community support; we’re very excited about it,” said Maher.

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