Many kids take to the outdoors like ducks take to water. And that certainly describes the students of Colette Bourgonje School.
Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and Saskatoon Public Schools, along with the Saskatoon Wildlife Federation, have launched an exciting partnership. The Saskatoon Wetland Centre of Excellence, the 25th in Canada and only the second to launch in Saskatchewan, will deliver hands-on and experiential wetland education programming in the Saskatoon area.
"Our school division prioritizes environmental education and providing relevant and meaningful learning opportunities for students. By being home to a Wetland Centre of Excellence, our students are learning they have an important role to play as stewards of the land," says Curtis Shepherd, principal of Colette Bourgonje School. "Our partnership with Ducks Unlimited Canada has provided rich learning for our students, who are able to walk across the street and put these lessons into action in Hyde Park."
The park serves as the perfect outdoor classroom. A slice of nature inside city limits, Hyde Park boasts 123 acres of naturalized wetlands — home to dozens of species of native plants and animals — that provide flood protection, recreational opportunities, and aesthetic value to neighbourhood residents. Students have already been hard at work and play at Hyde Park, assisting with invasive plant removal and learning about the variety of species that use this critical habitat through teacher-led field trips.
"Exploring and learning in nature is fun for students and also affords a tangible approach to science education that helps illustrate and cement key concepts," says Mariane Bolla, head of DUC's national education program. "Regularly visiting a local wetland and undertaking projects in support of its resident species drives home the importance of these habitats and the impacts of our actions in powerful ways that reach beyond the classroom."
Ducks Unlimited' s Wetland Centres of Excellence form a national network of schools and community partners where students lead wetland projects, peer-to-peer mentorship, and community outreach. This has proven to be an impactful model through which students and their broader communities learn about the critical functions wetlands perform, like providing habitat, mitigating climate change, and filtering upstream water to support cleaner lakes and rivers.
"There's no better place for conservation education than in the natural environment," says Bolla. "It's exciting to see the extraordinary passion and commitment CBS staff and students have already demonstrated for their local wetland at Hyde Park."
The official launch of the Saskatoon Wetland Centre of Excellence took place June 8 at Colette Bourgonje School, followed by outdoor activities at Hyde Park led by educators from DUC and the wildlife federation.