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Grade four through seven students at Martin Morigeau Elementary School in Canal Flats have embarked on a multi-disciplinary learning journey centred on the headwaters of the Columbia River, which is found just down the road from their school, in Canal Flats.

The purpose of this project is to learn about the cultural and ecological importance of the headwaters of the great Columbia River and then to share this knowledge through signage and artwork.

To this end, classroom learning has focused on the Columbia River from many different perspectives. Students are learning about traditional uses of the Columbia River and surrounding plants and animals in collaboration with local Ktunaxa and Shuswap bands, as well as cultural and linguistic connections to the river. Through environmental education provided by Wildsight’s Ecostewards program, students built mini watershed models. Students used these models to learn about how water flows in a watershed, the impact of pollution on downstream inhabitants and lands, actions humans can take to mitigate or prevent the effects of pollution, as well as how wetlands are a vital part of the Columbia River. Local artists have been working with students to build a 4 x 6 foot mural, including a small tile from every student depicting an image of an animal, plant or view each student connects to at the headwaters. Lastly, the group is working with the local Columbia Lake Technology Centre to fabricate permanent signage, which will capture students’ learning and artwork connected to the headwaters.

The benefits of this multi-faceted project are numerous and include student place-based connections to the ecosystem surrounding Canal Flats and connecting the importance of the Columbia River headwaters to local First Nations groups, the Ktunaxa and Shuswap bands. By leading tours and demonstrating their knowledge to visiting Wings Over the Rockies participants, students will practice their public speaking skills and, hopefully, recognize how renowned and important the headwaters in their backyard are for people near and far.

Participating groups & partners at this time: the Columbia Lake Technology Center, Wildsight, Shuswap Band, as well as local artists Joi and Kevan Leycraft of Kootenay Kool Studio and Gallery Inc.

To learn more about this project, please contact Alyssan Gauthier, Vice Principal of Martin Morigeau Elementary School at (250) 349-5665 or Alyssan.Gauthier@sd6.bc.ca.

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