Making the monitoring and stewardship connection for our Changing Currents participants!
EcoSpark’s flagship river study program, Changing Currents, does a fantastic job of bringing students into their local waterways through citizen science. Many of our schools visit and monitor the same sites every year for water quality and develop a connection to the nature there. This ignites a sense of caring and responsibility within the students for the nature in their community.
One way to care for the watershed (and open up other students’ eyes to the value of nature and sustainability) is through stewardship. We encourage our Changing Currents classes to take the next step and transform from citizen scientists to stewards of their watershed, but teachers often struggle to get this project off the ground despite interest from students and staff.
Recognizing this difficulty, we wanted to better understand the challenges and barriers encountered by classes wishing to do more stewardship on their school grounds. With support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, we are investigating these barriers (e.g., administrative, financial and systemic) by working with two schools in the Peel Region and assisting them in delivering brand new school ground greening projects from start to finish!
This school year, EcoSpark and two of our Changing Currents schools are going beyond the river monitoring and taking stewardship to their school grounds! St Richard Catholic Elementary School in the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board will be creating an outdoor learning space with natural seating and a native plant garden that will be a home for local pollinators and song birds. Cawthra Park Secondary School in the Peel District School Board will be planting trees to provide shade (and temperature control) to the west side of their school. Just beyond these trees there will be garden beds for native plants, and also for harvesting food. It will be a great place for many classes and courses to get hands-on learning.
Teachers from Cawthra Park scope out the area to be transformed by trees and gardens.
Teachers from St Richard map out the garden for the new outdoor learning space.
Both schools have been monitoring creeks (Mullet and Cooksville Creeks) with Changing Currents at waterways that are in walking distance from their school. By planting on school grounds, not only are they contributing to the biodiversity in the area, and creating a hands-on learning space, they are turning what was once hard soil into absorbent gardens with plant life and roots that can help filter polluted storm water before it returns to the water table.
Green space that doubles as learning space (and a watershed filtration system!) is a fantastic addition to any school yard. We thank Jeanette Lecky, Edanan McHutchon and principal Deanna Tucciarone from St Richard Catholic Elementary School as well as Tricia Fitzpatrick and Lyndsay McLeod from Cawthra Park Secondary School for all of their hard work to make this project a success! We are looking forward to planting this spring, and sharing our learning process and best practices for other schools in the future.
Interested in helping out? Join us on Saturday, May 13th at 11am for a “Dig Day” at Cawthra Park Secondary School in preparation for their school ground stewardship project!
Holly Brose is an Environmental Education Coordinator at EcoSpark. She facilitates the Changing Currents program with teachers and students across the Greater Toronto Area (and sometimes beyond!) and is always finding ways to deepen the hand-on learning experience for the benefit of our program participants.
This project is generously supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.