For the past few years, TimberWest has partnered with the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) to take students in grade four and five from school district 68 and 69 on a unique visit of the district’s watersheds. The “Exploring our Watersheds and Discovering Connections” program is an experiential learning opportunity that connects directly to the BC elementary curriculum.  The tours take students to the Englishman or Nanaimo River where the students learn about ecology, sustainable forestry and watershed activities. The expert and passionate Team WaterSmart runs and organizes the program, which is sponsored and led by the Regional District of Nanaimo, the City of Nanaimo, and the City of Parksville.  Other supporters of the program include TimberWest and Island Timberlands.

This spring and fall, Forest Professionals from TimberWest participated in over 11 tours, and helped the students step into the role of a true forest professional, with safety gear like vests and hard hats, and instruction about forest management. Shaw TV covered one of the tours in the Nanaimo River watershed, and a video can be watched on YouTube that shows the activities and discussion students focused on throughout the tour. The Forest Professionals teach about tree health and plant species identification, harvesting processes and effective management within community watersheds, and Team Water Smart focuses on the water cycle, and the plant operations keeping our water clean.

The full day watershed tours in the Nanaimo River watershed begin at the new water treatment plant facility on Nanaimo River Road. After that the bus heads into the watershed, and the tour leaders help students understand why the watershed is important and how it provides us with fresh and clean water to drink. The students are then taken to the Nanaimo water holding area at Jump Lake Dam where the water cycle and plant identification practices are discussed. The next stop is the Nanaimo River Regional Park, where students get split into two groups: one group discusses connections between life and water, and the other group does an activity to explore the balance of water use among all the different water users.

The overall goal of the program is to inspire students to make important connections with the environment and their everyday water usage. The tour has had a lasting impact on a large number of students because of its fun, discovery based learning approach.

The program is comprehensive and includes preparation packages and follow-up packages for the teachers. To find out more information, and to learn if your school is eligible to part-take in these tours, visit the RDN website at http://www.rdn.bc.ca/cms.asp?wpID=1463 

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