Monty kids discover a creek, a crusade

Montgomery middle school students Chris Zhang, Ashley Bolding and Jordan Andrew check water quality at nearby Booth Creek as part of a project-based learning initiative. - Craig Hodge/the tri-city newS
Montgomery middle school students Chris Zhang, Ashley Bolding and Jordan Andrew check water quality at nearby Booth Creek as part of a project-based learning initiative.
— image credit: Craig Hodge/the tri-city newS

The rain fell in sheets as the Grade 6 and 7 Montgomery middle school students jotted notes on clipboards, collected bugs in a net and stuck water quality probes into Booth Creek.

They looked just like scientists and that was the idea because this wasn’t just any old field trip to the local creek. The students are developing a database and planning to get the community involved in preserving Booth Creek and the surrounding ravine.

By counting bugs and analysing water quality, they hope to get a clear picture of the health of Booth Creek — which is a tributary of Como Creek, which flows into the Fraser River — and once they gather all their information, they can tell people about it.

“We’re trying to get the community to understand, appreciate and protect the stream of Booth and everything around it,” said Caylley Olstrom, a Grade 6 student who said she hopes to be a marine biologist one day.

This is the data-gathering stage of the project and once all the information is collected, the students will eventually put it online. The students are also studying plant life along the creek, First Nations involvement, wildlife and land use. They may even put up posters to let people know how important Booth Creek is to the health of the environment and history of the community.

The students’ ravine project is one of several learning initiatives at Montgomery middle, which is encouraging teachers to do project-based learning. Other projects on the go are about Japan and the Middle Ages and how these cultures influence the present world. One team is interviewing students in Iqaluit to find out about extreme environments and what they can teach today’s society.

The topics are weighty and the research is deep but “the kids are loving it,” said principal Nancy Bennett. “It’s a little more work upfront for teachers,” she said, but everyone has jumped on board and project-based learning is likely to continue next year, too.

The toughest part, Bennett said, is coming up with a “driving question” to get students interested and establish a focus for study.

Grade 6/7 teacher Gavin Hannah said he’s enjoyed watching the students get excited about the ravine project. Booth Creek, which cuts a slash through a cedar and sword-fern forest behind the school, has been a no-go area for years and many students didn’t even know what it was called.

“It’s a beautiful, pristine part of the watershed, and one of the most pristine parts runs past our school,” Hannah said.

What the students have found so far, is surprising to some, even on a cold, wet winter day. “I didn’t know there was that many life forms in this part of the creek,” said Noah Saini, a Grade 6 student.

Flavia Porime, also in Grade 6, didn’t know about the creek and now she wants to learn more about plants and wildlife in the area.

“It’s a very important part of our community,” said Bailie Barnaby.

Water Wise biologist Pam Zevit, who helped the students collect data, said she’s thrilled at the children’s zeal and their interest in preserving the watershed for generations to come.



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