You couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day on May 25 as students from Nakusp Elementary School (NES) headed out to MacDonald Creek to plant trees and learn about invasive species.
Students were divided into two groups, Grade 3/4 and Grade 7. The Grade 3/4 class did a biodiversity scavenger hunt to look for different plants and insects, while the Grade 7 class learned the difference between what kind of plants are native to the West Kootenays, and what plants are invasive.
They learned how as an invasive species is introduced into a new area biodiversity goes down, and the smaller the ecosystem is, the faster an invasive species can spread.
Students were also shown some of the species affecting the West Kootenays. A lot of the invasive species are plants. These include scotch broom, marsh plume thistle, and Japanese knotweed. Many feel getting the NES students involved in learning about invasive plants and animals affecting the area is important.
“Kids are so observant. If they know it’s invasive, that’s going to carry through the rest of their lives,” said Erin Bates, an invasive species technician with the Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society (CKISS). “If they can identify even one invasive species that they didn’t know before they got here, then our work is done.”
After an hour, students were taken up a logging road to one of the Nakusp and Area Community Forest’s (NACFOR’s) planting sites. There, they were once again divided into two groups, one for a nature walk, the other for tree planting. After a certain amount of time, the groups would switch.
For tree planting, the students were divided into four groups. The groups were given three different types of seedlings to plant, which had to be spaced a certain distance apart from each other in order to optimize growth.
For many of the students who took part in the tree planting last year, it gave them a chance to find the trees they had planted and check on their growth.
NACFOR has worked with the school district for the last five years.
“We had recently logged a spot, and we had trees coming to plant,” said Frances Swan, a project manager with NACFOR. “It just sort of worked out that we had some available ground and some available trees, and there were some teachers who were interested.”
Swan thinks it’s a great opportunity for students to learn about the natural environment and resource management.
“We live in a resource based community, and it’s a really good opportunity for the students to get out and see how it works, and see it in action.”
Students enjoyed the learning experience.
“In my opinion it’s always good to know what are the good plants and what are the bad,” said Ledger Coates, a Grade 7 student at NES. “It’s great for just knowing what they are, so if there’s anything bad growing in your yard, you know what it is, and when to pick it out.”
Fellow student Dustin Lasseter agrees.
“Planting trees helps make cleaner air, and preventing the invasive species will help the environment, and help native plants.”
NACFOR and School District 10 have developed an educational partnership, with NACFOR committed to working within the district on many different educational initiatives, with tree planting being among them.
Swan hopes the program goes on for many years to come.
“As long as NACFOR has areas that need planting, and it works out with the timing in the spring, we’ll continue to do it.”