Bill Gilroy teaches a class of Grade Seven students from Columneetza in the Scout Island Nature Centre Friday, April 5. Patrick Davies Photo

Scout Island readies students to jump into Earth Challenge

As Earth Day approaches, SD27 and Scout Island have been teaching students about the environment

As Earth Day approaches Scout Island and SD27 have teamed up to offer training for the Earth Challenge to all of Lake City Secondary Columneetza Campus’ Grade 7 students.

Every since 1970, Earth Day is celebrated on April 22, now in more than 193 countries worldwide. People come together to support various events, initiatives and projects focused on environmental protection of the planet we all rely on four our very existence. This year Scout Island Nature Centre and the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society continue their tradition of readying Grade 7 students for the Earth Challenge.

This year they’re being prepared by Scout Island’s new education coordinator Bill Gilroy, a veteran teacher who stepped into the role seven months ago. Gilroy comes from a background of wildlife and environmental education and describes his time thus far at Scout Island as “great.” He himself has enjoyed learning more about the local environment from the Williams Lake Field Naturalists, who run Scout Island, who he said has an “immense body of knowledge.”

Read More: Students participate in Earth Day activities

The Earth Challenge, he said, is the result of a collaboration of several organizations within the Williams Lake area spearheaded by the CCCS, who provide programs in school that has students look at the effects of human waste and the importance of air and water quality for the environment. Gilroy said that they also take a look at invasive species effects on the environment, particularly plants, that if offered by naturalist Mary Forbes.

“Here at Scout Island, we do a component that gives the children a look at ecosystems found within the Cariboo Chilcotin and we look at four systems. The dry forest, which is what we typically find surrounding the Williams Lake area, the wet forest, which is found in the Cariboo mountains, the alpine forest and the grassland areas, which are very minimal in B.C.,” Gilroy explained.

It’s thanks to Scout Island’s unique, largely undisturbed, environment that Gilroy is able to show the students examples of all these diverse land habitats as well as explore the surrounding aquatic ecosystems like the marshlands that surround the island. In particular, he focuses on the importance of the riparian edge of a wetland or moving body of water, that being the plant life that surrounds the body of water.

However, unlike at their school, it’s not all book learning while at the Nature Centre. Instead, Gilroy has been taking the students out for some fun active hands-on learning experiences as well. This includes nature hikes, smelling trees and dip-netting the marshes for aquatic invertebrates to study and learn from.

“The kids have been amazing, Williams Lake is an outdoors community so a lot of kids do outdoors recreation in and around the area,” Gilroy said. “They like getting out there and getting dirty as well we get them really in there, mucking about, in a hands-on way.”

When The Tribune tagged along for one of these classes on Friday, April 5 it was clear the students, overall, responded well to this style of learning. The students shared infectious energy and there was a real eagerness to get out and about to get their hands dirty.

All their learning will culminate in this year’s Earth Challenge held Thursday, April 18 at Columneetza Campus. The Earth Challenge will be held in a Jeopardy-style format between team representatives from each class. The idea, Gilroy said, is to give the students a chance to show off all they’ve learned from the various programs and further engrain this important knowledge.

Indeed, Gilroy said that already many of the students are proud to share tidbits of knowledge they’ve learned with himself and their fellow classmates as they take part in the course.

“For me, it’s a double pleasure. Working with the children is really delightful, it’s a lot of fun and the other thing that is close to my heart is everything in nature. Since I’ve been a child nature has been in my back pocket, so to speak, so it’s a double bonus for me to teach children about so many aspects of nature,” Gilroy remarked.

He hopes that by teaching them about the natural world, he and the other partners of the Earth Challenge will foster a love of nature in each student. After all, one day soon they will be the new stewards of the Cariboo and all the rest of the world.

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Haedyn Lens dipnets for aquatic invertebrates at Scout Island as part of her training for the Earth Challenge. Patrick Davies photo.

Williams Lake Field Naturalist director and teacher Frances McCoubrey (from left) demonstrates how to dipnet for aquatic life for SD27 students Aiden Wycotte and Logan Stanislaus. Patrick Davies Photo.

Aiden Wycotte (top left) peers into a bucket of water taken from the Scout Island Marsh with his classmate Logan Stanislaus and their instructor Williams Lake Field Naturalist Director Frances McCoubrey. Patrick Davies Photo.

SD 27 Haedyn Lens (from left) searches for aquatic life in the Scout Island marsh with the help of Chloe Skoblanuik while Kai Oliver does the same on her own. Patrick Davies photo. SD 27 Haedyn Lens (from left) searches for aquatic life in the Scout Island marsh with the help of Chloe Skoblanuik while Kai Oliver does the same on her own. Patrick Davies photo.

Tanaya Mattu laughs as she pulls her net from the Scout Island Marsh while her friend Nakota Chorney probes the depths with her own net. Patrick Davies Photo.

Kai Oliver leaps from one flooded boardwalk to the next, holding onto a tree for support, while on a nature hike in Scout Island. Patrick Davies Photo.

Haedyn Lens (left) dashes through a flooded walkway while her classmate Chloe Skoblanuik takes a spill into the water. Skoblaniuk walked away smiling from her dip. Patrick Davies Photo. Haedyn Lens (left) dashes through a flooded walkway while her classmate Chloe Skoblanuik takes a spill into the water. Skoblaniuk walked away smiling from her dip. Patrick Davies Photo.

Classmates Logan Stanislaus (front right) and Adrian Wycotte charge through a flooded boardwalk section in Scout Island on Friday, April 5.

Abby Green (from left) navigates a slippery boardwalk as her classmates Haedyn Lens splashes into the water and Chloe Skoblanuik picks herself up. Patrick Davies photo

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