Students get to know their watershed

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Lars Sander-Green

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Students from JV Humphries prepare water samples to test for invasive mussels.

We turn on our taps and water comes out. We pull the plug and there it goes. But where did the water come from? Where did it go? This spring, students from JV Humphries School in Kaslo, discovered – through in class sessions, a visit to their watershed and a hands-on investigation at Kaslo Bay – that the answers to those questions are much more complex than the conveniences of modern life have led us to believe.

Their journey through the water cycle story was led by Know Your Watershed, an education program from the Columbia Basin Trust. This program, administered and managed by Wildsight, sees local educators visit classrooms for sessions on all things water and takes students on full day field trips into their community’s watershed. Over the course of a few days, students learn how their water gets from the mountains to the faucet – and all about the return journey down the pipes, through wastewater treatment and back into the water cycle.

The Kaslo Grade 9s had a chance to further expand their water knowledge by visiting Kaslo Bay and doing some in-depth learning about Kootenay Lake, including the food web that supports our Gerrard rainbow trout, the biggest rainbow trout in the world. Marley Bassett, Fish Restoration biologist from the province, was on hand to share information about her work on Kootenay and Arrow Lakes. The students also learned about a new threat to our lakes: the highly invasive zebra and quagga mussels, which have not yet reached BC and hopefully never will. Water samples were taken by the students and sent off to a lab to test for the presence of mussels. The results will be made available to Kaslo’s new crop of budding field technicians.

“Having the opportunity to learn directly from Marley about issues facing Kootenay Lake was awesome,” said Know Your Watershed educator, Gillian Sanders. “The students learned how to record field data and take real samples to send to the lab – the whole experience really raised everybody’s awareness of how fortunate we are to have this amazing body of fresh water at our doorstep.” Sometimes the best lessons are learned outside the classroom.

“Spring really is a perfect time to be out looking at issues that affect our water supply and try to understand the complex variables that can change water quality and water quantity in our local watersheds,” said Wildsight’s Know Your Watershed coordinator Dave Quinn. And with the program being updated alongside the revised BC curriculum and moving from Grade 8 to Grade 9 classrooms this year, the 7th season of Know Your Watershed – much like the time between winter and summer – was one of transition.

This combination of updated curriculum and returning faces, mixed in with some fresh student action and learning projects, made for an exciting new season of Know Your Watershed throughout the Columbia Basin. So if you see a community youngster deep in thought at the water fountain, now you know why.