Guest blog by Paige from the Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Lethbridge
I’m very lucky to have a job that constantly inspires and energizes me. My work brings me hope and joy and pride but it’s not my actions that bring on these feelings. This joy comes from watching my students connect, perhaps for the first time, with their ecosystem and become illuminated with the knowledge that a more sustainable future is within reach.
The Natural Leaders Project is amazing. It’s a yearlong environmental education program developed by the Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta. The program is targeted at grade 5 – 9 classes and is designed to develop ecological literacy as well as conservation and biodiversity action in a new generation of citizens. I am the lucky so-and-so who gets to coordinate it.
A lot of what I do involves in-class programs, field trips, facilitating guest speakers and connecting teachers and students with local services, organizations and entrepreneurs who are leading the way in sustainable management. From there, the classes engage in conservation or biodiversity enhancement projects in their schools and broader community.
All of this is quite straight forward but one of the greatest obstacles I face is the ongoing hunt for locally relevant teaching resources that are easy for students to consume and understand. Enter, the EALT Species at Risk in Alberta Identification and Information Guide.
When I introduce this resource to my students, I begin with a reading scavenger hunt. For example, I ask students to identify the species at risk that is also Alberta’s provincial fish (it’s the Bull Trout, by the way). They then flip through the booklet, discovering how it’s organized, perusing the species and familiarizing themselves with the layout. Then I have the students each select a different species (fortunately there are enough for each student to have their own) and to complete a poster, paper or other activity that requires them to do a little additional research on the species.
The booklet is also useful as a linear reference tool. For example, when I lead a program exclusively about habitat, we can pull out the books and notice trends in habitat threats to species at risk. Similarly, when looking into conservation, we can explore the consistent threats to these species and how those threats can be mitigated. I have also had students create food webs or relationship webs based on the connections among the species in the booklet.
Suffice it to say, the possibilities are endless and I am always excited to get my paws on this kind of resource. In fact, can’t keep them in stock. Whenever I show a coworker, teacher or Nature Centre visitor this booklet, they manage to sneak away with a copy!
This booklet is a great example of a high quality, locally-relevant resource for all ages and backgrounds. Great job, Edmonton and Area Land Trust!
Paige Rosner is an Environmental Educator at the Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta. Her work on the Natural Leaders Project is possible due to generous support from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation.