I had just looked up from the bug cupped in the hands of one eager student when I saw something that immediately brought a smile to my face. Another young girl who, unlike most of the other students, was not wearing rubber boots had decided to join her classmates in the water despite having only running shoes. Without fear of getting wet, she stepped from one submerged rock to another to reach her friends who were enjoying the opportunity to spend some time outdoors.
It was sights like this that made my few days volunteering with Changing Currents so memorable and inspiring. Changing Currents is a citizen science program for students from grades 6-12 around the GTA to evaluate the water quality in their local streams and rivers. Students are asked to get up close and personal with the wildlife in their streams and learn through hands-on experience about methods of testing water quality. Primarily, they look at the populations of certain bugs who, due to their varying pollution tolerance levels, are good indicators of the health of water.
I had been warned that some kids can be reluctant to get in the water. Yet that wasn’t my experience. The kids I worked with were curious and enthusiastic. One entire class was so prepared to get wet that every single student had brought with them a change of clothes.
After every session, I heard one particular thought echoed amongst the participants: they wished that they could do programs like Changing Currents more often. I quickly learned that most students are looking for more chances to learn outside the classroom. When I spoke to one of the teachers, she told me that she also wished for more opportunities for hands-on learning with her students. This did not surprise me after witnessing the high level of enthusiasm displayed by the various students I worked with which, in my experience, is difficult to come by in a classroom setting.
Castilleja DeMarco is a volunteer at EcoSpark. Throughout her life, she has been very engaged with environmental protection and education. During the school year, she attends the Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.