‘Which watershed would you want to swim in if you were a fish?!’
This was one of the questions we asked at the 9th Annual Raft River Interpretive School Program! The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Simpcw First Nations, Thompson Nicola Regional District, and BCWF Wetlands Education Program participated in this 3 day outdoor education event. The BCWF station taught watershed, wetland and invertebrate sessions to 355 Kindergarten to Grade 11 students from North Thompson Valley schools including Raft River Elementary, Blue River Elementary, Vavenby Elementary, Clearwater Secondary School and Neqweyqwelsten School.
The surrounding mountains in the North Thompson Watershed made it easy for the students to visualize a watershed as a ‘big bowl’ collecting water. We came equipped with our watershed model which consists of a natural watershed filled with wetlands and the elements of a typical development in a watershed. Students could see first hand how developing wetlands influences the flow of water in the watershed through a number of exercises.
First the students acted as small rain clouds in the upper catchment, pouring cups of water to see how much faster the flow in the developed watershed is due to reduced vegetation and straight channels. The students were then asked to be a big thunderstorm, dumping the cups of water in the upper catchment and totally flooding the houses and agricultural fields. The students could easily identify how wetlands and vegetation reduce flooding and erosion as the natural watershed maintained a slow flow. The students were asked what other functions a wetland has beyond flood control and great habitat value. For the final pour, students witnessed the ability of the wetland to improve water quality, while dirty polluted water flowed through the developed watershed to the lower catchment.
We also showed the children live invertebrates so the students could learn about their special survival adaptations including the butt breathing water scorpion! Being able to identify invertebrates is important as they are a good indicator of wetland health.
The Outreach Event would not have been possible without the financial support of Wildlife Habitat Canada and Shell Canada.