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Hot springs a hot topic for environmental studies class

The hot spring in and around the Nakusp area have recently been a subject of interest for the high school's environmental studies program.
Julia Flesaker’s environmental studies class prepare to test the waters at Halway Hot Springs near Nakusp. The class has been getting sample from five hot springs in the area

Hot springs are a focal point for many of those who visit Nakusp.

They’re also a focal point for Julia Flesaker’s environmental studies class at Nakusp Secondary School (NSS).

The class, made up of nine students from Grade 8-12, have been visiting five hot springs in the area. They’ve been doing a variety of tests on each one, comparing their temperatures, water chemistry, pH levels, mineral content, and more.

“The purpose was to get the kids outside to develop an appreciation for the unique environment we live in,” said Flesaker. “They’re also getting lab skills and working collaboratively to determine water chemistry data with five local hot springs within class.”

The five hot springs visited so far are the Nakusp Hot Springs, Halcyon, Halfway Hot Springs, St. Leon’s, and Ainsworth Hot Springs. The class hopes to also visit Canyon Hot Springs near Revelstoke when they open some time in spring.

To help with this project Flesaker applied for and received funding from the Stewards of the Future Grant.

To get the grant the class had to be exploring community-based issues focused on sustainability, stewardship, and nature.

This is where the hot springs come into play. They’re a natural attribute in the area, and many of the students had actually never visited the natural ones like Halfway and St. Leon.

The grant helped the class purchase a new set of sampling equipment, which will really help the accuracy of the results.

“Having another kit will help us increase our accuracy,” said Wolfgang Kostuch, one of the students in the class. “One of the problems that we have with having only two kits this year was one could be off at another location, so you had to try a couple of times to figure out which one was accurate.”

Flesaker stressed that this is a class project, so any research they do will not be published.

Along with testing, the class also looked at the history of the hot springs.

“They each took a hot spring and did a little more digging on it,” said Flesaker. “We went to the archives as well and looked at the history of the development of the hot springs. It was kind of an all-encompassing project.”

One thing that surprised the students was the temperatures of the hot springs, and how different they were from one another. For example, at Halfway the temperature of one hot spring was 68 degrees, while the cooler spring was 38.

Not only are the students getting some great experience working in the field, they’re also having a lot of fun.

“It’s really cool to be there when you’re learning about it and doing the tests right at the hot springs, and just getting out and going around for field trips,” said Zhara Moody. “It’s really fun.”

Overall the class has had a great time in doing the project, and if the course is offered again next year they might do something similar.

“Any chance to get kids out of the classroom is awesome, and who wouldn’t want to study hot springs?” Flesaker concluded. “It was neat, because it was something we were all interested in at that we all had known about and we all learned new things.”