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New wetland program impresses students, educators

Students from five classes at McKim School braved cold and wet conditions this fall to help pilot a new environmental education program at Eimer’s Lake in the Kimberley Nature Park, and they are giving it two thumbs up.

The instructor-led pilot program is earning high praise from students and educators.

The wetland program uses exploratory and inquiry-based teaching methods to guide students through a series of learning stations around Eimer’s Lake. Upon arrival, students are encouraged to use their senses to explore nature. After listening, watching, smelling and feeling the forested wetland area, the classes are split into two groups, with each group travelling in an opposite direction around the lake. Along the way, they encounter a number of activity-based learning stations. Activities at these stations include:

• Searching for foreign objects (metaphors for aspects of wetlands)

• Measuring with rulers and tapes

• Sampling the soil near the water and further away

• Finding specific plants using guides developed for the program

During the outing, the students problem-solve solo or with a partner. Half way around the boardwalk, the two groups meet and stop for a snack. Time permitting, students also do a solo sit to enhance their sensory awareness. While sitting, they are encouraged to draw something that stokes their imagination.

Children circumnavigate the boardwalk at Eimer’s Lake, learning about nature as they go.

Designed by instructor Patty Kolesnichenko with assistance by Laura and Jim Duncan in collaboration with Mainstreams, a Kimberley-based society that heightens awareness about healthy water, the place-based pilot program is aligned with Ministry of Education curriculum guides. The pilot was funded in May 2017 by BC Hydro with a $10,000 Community Engagement grant, but implementation last year was delayed due to floods and wildfires.

The new educational wetland program was also featured in October at a Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication conference held at St. Eugene Resort. Kolesnichenko and Laura Duncan led an enthusiastic group of 15 delegates from all over Canada through a three-hour session at Eimer’s Lake.

“Overall, the program has received high praise from the environmental educators, and from participating students and teachers,” says Laura Duncan. “We’re looking forward to continuing it next year.”

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