Maureen Nadeau and Emily Suchy of the Wetlands Education Program (WEP) spent an amazing past two weeks in Squamish, joining forces with the Squamish River Watershed Society (SRWS) to deliver educational programs to students from grades 2-6! This year’s theme was, “A River Runs Through Us” and the event was held at the ever relevant Mamquam Reunion. Rhonda O’Grady, the Education Outreach Coordinator for SRWS, developed four incredible stations that focused on relating children with nature and teaching them about the connections between rivers, forests, salmon, beavers, and of course, humans. Each station brought another important topic to life through hands-on, place-based learning. Students were able to trek through mud, walk through a forest blindfolded, and get their hands dirty planting native trees and shrubs.
Station #1 was “The Incredible Journey”, which taught students about the life cycle of salmon and how each stage interacts with its environment. This station displayed the reasons we should care about salmon and the challenges that salmon are facing because of human development.
Station #2 was labelled as “Nature Unplugged” and it focused on creating a deeper relationship with nature. Throughout the station, students followed a forest trail, blindfolded, taking turns appeasing their various senses. They guessed the various sounds, smells, and textures they were experiencing along the way. The lucky ones even touched slimy slugs!
Our station was #3 and it was titled “Beavers – Super Heroes in Fur Pants.” During this station, we taught students about the roles beavers play in the watershed as a “Keystone Species” – a species that other plants and animals greatly depend upon in an environment, where removing them would completely change the area. We spent our time hiking through lush vegetation to an incredible beaver site that perfectly demonstrated the benefits of beavers. It was easy to see many other plants and animals co-existing in the space. It was a truly beautiful site and the children loved being so close to the beaver’s homes (I’m sure the mud was pretty fun to slosh around in as well!). In addition to being able to show the students both a dam and lodge, children learned about the incredible adaptations beavers have to live in water through real beaver artifacts. We even played a bit of dress up to transform unsuspecting students into beavers with silly adaptations from our “tickle trunk”.
Station #4 was “The Salmon Forest” where students learned about the depth and complexity of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem and the roles humans play in its survival. At this station, students also got their hands dirty and took part in restoring the Mamquam Reunion by planting native riparian shrubs. The focus of this station was to highlight the interconnectedness of all living things and how much of an impact humans can have on the environment.
It was an incredible two weeks, full of learning, laughing, and connecting with nature. We couldn’t of asked for better weather and an even better group of people to spend 6 days with. The WEP team cannot wait to be part of the program next year! A big thank you goes out to the Squamish River Watershed Society and all other volunteers who took the time out of their day to be part of this incredible initiative. Special thanks to our funders, Wildlife Habitat Canada, for helping make this event a possibility.