August 5, 2021, Perth, Ontario – While Leopard Frogs, Painted Turtles, and Common Milkweed may be ordinary sightings for many Ottawa residents, they are often a new experience for New Canadian students. These students can experience geographic, financial, experiential, and knowledge-based barriers to learning about and meeting local species. Watersheds Canada’s “Freshwater, Plants, and People (FPP) Program” has helped to break down these barriers for grade 3 and 4 students at two Ottawa schools.
The FPP Program featured four Ontario curriculum-linked video lessons, four activities, and three handouts that provided an introduction to different local plant and animal species found in the Ottawa area. The program was created by Watersheds Canada and delivered online and in-person thanks to the collaborative effort of staff and participating teachers at W.E. Gowling Public School and Carleton Heights Public School.
“Engaging students in an online COVID time is especially difficult. This program provided hands-on activities that were tied to curriculum expectations that truly made learning fun for the students and the staff,” says Lynn Dupuis, Principal, Carleton Heights Public Heights. “We are thankful that during this difficult time we have community partners working with us, making a difference for our students and their families.”
This year-long program was generously funded by the Ottawa Community Foundation and made it possible for the next generation of environmental stewards to explore their local environment and learn about the impacts people can have on native plant species, shorelines, and freshwater health.
“The Ottawa Community Foundation is very proud and excited to support the Freshwater, Plants, and People Program. Unique educational opportunities are more important than ever at this challenging time, and the work of Watersheds Canada is a great example of this”, says Tais McNeill, Senior Associate, Community Engagement, Ottawa Community Foundation.
Children do not require extensive background knowledge or experience in nature to become environmental stewards. What is important is they are given an equal opportunity to explore nature at their own pace and to explore their own passions. The FPP Program was specifically developed for New Canadian and English as a Second Language (ESL) learners, focusing on species familiarization and identification by using pictures, sounds, and games.
“The Freshwater, Plants, and People Program was a huge hit in my classroom! It was a great resource to use with my students, many of whom are new Canadians. All the information was accessible and they were very engaged with the various hands-on learning activities”, says Catherine Pacella, grade 4 teacher, Carleton Heights Public School.
The Program made sure to include and engage students of all learning levels by offering different adaptations for lessons, and providing free take-home materials for students to go back to after the school year was over. This free program was especially beneficial to RAISE (Resource Allocation Index based on Socioeconomics) schools that participate in fewer programs and field trips based on financial needs. Both participating schools are situated in highly urbanized areas meaning students often do not see local wildlife species commonly found in freshwater areas like lakes.
Prior to participating in the FPP, students filled in a picture-based pre-survey to see if they recognized ten specific local species, and if they knew the specific species name. In total, 55% of students said they had seen some of ten local species before, with the Common Loon and Monarch Butterfly being the most recognized species. After participating in the FPP Program, student knowledge of local species and their ability to name the specific species increased by 30%. This increase in knowledge was measured using picture-based pre- and post-participation surveys.
“The Freshwater, Plants, and People Program really brought our plants and habitats units to life,” says Emily St. Aubin, grade 3/4 teacher, W.E. Gowling Public School. “The hands-on materials and engaging activities were great additions to our learning. The students loved getting to have a virtual guest speaker, too!”
All resources from Watersheds Canada’s pilot FPP Program are now available online for open access. While the materials have specific curriculum links for the Ontario grade 3 and 4 science units, they can easily be adapted for younger or older audiences including informal education settings like nature groups. Be sure to download all the materials for free at watersheds.ca/FPP-Program
About Watersheds Canada
Watersheds Canada is a national non-profit charitable organization that works with landowners, communities, and organizations to enhance and protect lakes and rivers through developing effective and transferable long-term solutions. Watersheds Canada envisions people caring for their waters, resulting in clean, healthy lakes and rivers to support humans and wildlife for years to come. Learn more at Watersheds.ca
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