When Wildsight undertook to engage students in study of their watersheds, they didn’t just mean looking at a where a community’s water supply originated. They also meant an explanation of how water is treated once it arrives at a municipality’s delivery system, and, yes, a deep look into storm sewers.
Know Your Watershed is a program of the Columbia Basin Trust and is administered and delivered by Wildsight.
As Lorene Keitch of Wildsight says, the subject of water is as deep as the ocean itself. You can skim the surface, or dive deep on the subject, look at it from different directions, investigate it through science, mathematics, economics, art, history and more.
Students at the Kimberley Independent School had an opportunity to take part in an immersive look at their own watershed this past school year, led by Wildisght educator Patty Kolesnichenko.
While the entire Know Your Watershed program is designed for a Grade 9 science curriculum, other grades can also take part in many of its concepts.
At Kimberley Independent School, it was the Grade 6/7 class who worked on a series of interactive projects to learn more about the local watershed.
Keitch explained that the main focus was storm drains. Nobody really pays attenuate to the unassuming metal grates found along every street in every town, she says, but Kolesnichenko wanted to change that.
”I wanted to help give these students some awareness of what’s going on in their community in terms of water,” she said. “We looked at our watershed; we looked at what impacts in our community affect our watershed, and storm water is a big one. All the other water that moves through our system gets treated somehow. Storm drains don’t, and they can really have an impact on our ecosystem health.”
Students explored how water enters the storm drains, including drawing maps of the school and envisioning if a water droplet falls, where it would land. They did a rainy day survey of their school neighbourhood to see where water flows off of buildings and roads. They looked at the area storm drains, and investigated the nearby creek to see where collected water from drains then enters the creek.
The project was assisted with collaboration between Wildsight and the City of Kimberley, as the municipality allowed students to paint bright yellow fish on storm drains near the school to further public education efforts.
“Now, any time someone walks by a storm drain painted with the yellow fish, they will hopefully consider how they can ensure they are keeping that water clean and clear of cigarette butts, dog feces, car oil, litter and more,” Keitch said.
Koleschenko also got students thinking about what they could do to improve water management practices in their own backyards such as installing rain barrels, promoting rain-absorbing materials like grass instead of all concrete, and encouraging ditches with more natural features to increase drainage. They designed their own ‘home of the future’, with water-friendly features like sod roofs, rain barrels, and parking lots with grass instead of pavement.
The children also learned about water filters, investigating things like sediment sizes and what makes a filter work. The Great Water Filter challenge saw students using plastic water bottles and making their own filters. Through trial and error, they competed to see who made the best filter using materials such as grass, pebbles, charcoal, even cotton balls.
Through this Know Your Watershed program, Koleschenko said, “students began to understand the bigger picture of water in our community: where it flows, where it’s stored, and what the impacts are if we don’t take care of this place.”
Grade 6/7 teacher Ms. Ronalea says her students loved the interactive program. Doing this kind of hands-on learning helps the material to sink in, she said.
“It’s really teaching to their natural curiosity, and still having that element of incorporating movement into it, and trying different ways to do things, and having a connection with being outdoors and actually seeing it for themselves. They take so much more from it.”