A Model Watershed: where design meets conservation

Speaking as an artist, I am always pleased to see the employment of creative types by non-profits and environmental organizations. I was especially happy to be involved in coordinating a special project for the Wetlands program this spring: the construction of an interactive model watershed.

Our public call for industrial designers and model-makers received a strong response from the GVRD with many applicants interested in working alongside an environmental education program. We were most impressed with the portfolio of Adam Kiidumae of The Little Big Workshop Design Studio in Vancouver, who became the first model maker ever hired by the BCWF Wetlands Education Program. His experience in creating dioramas and topographical models and his education in Industrial Design (Emily Carr University of Art and Design) and Sculpture (University of Guelph) set him up for a great understanding of our need for something relatively lightweight, transportable (after all, it will be educating children all over the province!) and able to take a lot of water being dumped on it for demonstrations. We were particularly impressed with his introduction:

“I am a life long lover of natural wetlands and watersheds, and am pleased to be involved in an educational project which highlights their importance.”

Adam and his working partner, Nick, designed and created a functional landscape in less than one month. They encased two contrasting watersheds in a frame of plexiglass.

The left side of the model features healthy open water wetlands in the alpine, meandering streams lined with marshes, and an estuary complete with eelgrass. The right side is disturbed and degraded by improper use of the watershed: drainage tiles empty wetlands for farm fields, runoff from pavement leaks into streams, and industry has taken the place of the eelgrass beds. When water is poured onto the model from above, children can compare the speed at which the water flows before it drains out from the sea level through a drain the designers build in.

Adam (left) and Nick (right) with the completed model in their workshop

The Little Big Workshop has greatly assisted our regular outreach programming by animating the importance of healthy watersheds to people and the animals we share this resource with. We thank them for all their hard work and hope to work with them again in the future!

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