Nature-based learning takes flight in Alberta
There’s no better place for conservation education than in the natural environment. Nature-based action projects offer students authentic, relevant and meaningful learning opportunities. And now, through Ducks Unlimited Canada’s (DUC) Wetland Centre of Excellence program, Edmonton-area students will have the opportunity to tackle hands-on projects at their local wetland.
DUC is pleased to announce the launch of Alberta’s first Wetland Centre of Excellence at the John E. Poole wetland in St. Albert. The centre will deliver immersive wetland education programming to local students and is the latest addition to DUC’s network of 27 Wetland Centres of Excellence across Canada.
“Exploring and learning in nature is fun for students but also affords a tangible approach to science education that helps illustrate and cement key concepts,” says Mariane Bolla, head of DUC’s national education program. “Regularly visiting a local wetland and undertaking projects in support of its resident species drives home the importance of these habitats and the impacts of our actions in powerful ways that reach beyond the classroom.”
DUC’s Wetland Centre of Excellence program facilitates a national network of schools and community partners where students undertake wetland projects, peer-to-peer mentorship and community outreach. Through this model, students and their broader communities learn about the critical functions wetlands perform, such as providing habitat, mitigating climate change, and filtering upstream water to support cleaner lakes and rivers.
“By taking part in this project, I have learned so much about wetland biology itself – about what they [wetlands] do for our environment and their greater ecological impacts,” says Natalia Cesarz, Grade 11 student from Bellerose Composite High School (BCHS).
Earlier this year, BCHS and DUC partnered up to initiate the Wetland Centre of Excellence program at the John E. Poole wetland.
“DUC reached out to me in the summer of 2021,” says Clayton Work, Grade 11 biology teacher with BCHS. “Initially, I was hesitant to take on a new project during a pandemic; however, looking back, I am so happy we did. I believe Bellerose students learned so much from having choice and autonomy to propose and execute their own projects. I cannot thank DUC enough for the legitimacy they offered our efforts and for the priceless wisdom and guidance they provided me and our students. Given our school’s proximity to the John E. Pool wetland, working together was a natural fit.”
Sitting along the east shore of Big Lake just outside of St. Albert, Alta., the John E. Poole wetland is connected to the Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park and is recognized as a globally significant Important Bird Area for its abundant and diverse bird populations, especially waterfowl and shorebirds.
“It is one thing to read about wetlands in a textbook but being there really makes you appreciate them. I am happy that we were able to test the quality of the water so that – hopefully – the health of the wetland can be monitored for a long period of time,” says Brayden Adolf, BCHS student.
Students have been hard at work and play at the John E. Poole wetland since early May, planting native species, testing water quality and learning about the variety of species that use this critical habitat through teacher-led field trips.
“The wetland conservation and awareness projects have been something I have truly enjoyed throughout this school year,” says Grade 11 BCHS student, Emily Clark. “Having the freedom to choose not only what kind of project that we did—conservation or awareness— but also, to decide what we, as a group, wanted to do. Having this freedom made it not only interesting, but something I looked forward to working on.”
With the official launch of the Edmonton Wetland Centre of Excellence, local students will be able to learn about the important role of wetlands, develop field skills through action projects and gain exposure to conservation practices and career options for years to come.
Bellerose Composite High School offers English and International Baccalaureate programs for students in Grades 10 to 12. The school serves the areas of Deer Ridge, Lacombe, Mission, North Ridge and other neighbourhoods. For more information, visit bchs.spschools.org.
Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is the leader in wetland conservation. A registered charity, DUC partners with government, industry, non-profit organizations, Indigenous Peoples and landowners to conserve wetlands that are critical to waterfowl, wildlife and the environment. To learn more about DUC’s innovative environmental solutions and services, visit www.ducks.ca.
Jennifer Golletz, Communications Specialist