Passersby will notice that the corner of 6 avenue and 4 St just got plenty brighter. A three dimensional mural was installed on the morning of May 8 by the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) and representatives of the Stream of Dreams Mural Society. Two hundred brightly coloured life-size fish have been permanently attached to the fence outside of the elementary school to represent environmental awareness to fish habitat. Stream of Dreams is behind the project; their motto is “all drains lead to fish habitat.”
Each of the foot-long fish was cut out and primed by local carpenter Joseph Hughes. The students (and some of the staff) decorated a fish with their own individual artistic style using outdoor house paint, after which they were sealed in a clear coat. They are expected to last for many years and will be maintained annually by the PAC.
Emi Cronin and Monica Nissen, are Environmental Educators from Vancouver and Nelson who came to Nakusp to talk to elementary students about the environment.
Nissen said, “We travel around and do the Stream of Dreams program throughout the Kootenays. It’s all about watershed awareness and keeping our water clean because of fish habitat.”
First, students at Nakusp Elementary School and Edgewood School attended a workshop which focused on where their water comes from and how to keep water clean to protect local watershed. Then, went to work with outdoor house paint and brushes. Each fish is a “dream fish” and represents a future with clean and healthy water. Some people painted realistic looking fish, others got very colourful.
PAC member Lori MacKenzie who was one of the organizers said, “One of the teachers brought the idea to our attention so we got the ladies in from Nelson to make it happen. I love the combination of learning about the environment with the artistic part as well.”
Nancy Plank, PAC member, was also affixing fish to the chain link with pliers said, “It’s so nice to see the happy faces trying to find their fish.”
More Stream of Dreams installations are throughout Nelson and Castlegar, Lumby and in the East Kootenays as well.
Environmental Educator Emi Cronin said, “It like the symbolism that each of these fish represents a child who spent some time getting to know their watershed. Something that was really fun here was that the kids here spend a lot of time outside. They knew all of the creeks around here, they have done a lot of recreating so the connection is already really strong. We want to acknowledge and appreciate the PAC for their efforts and the funding that went into getting us to be able to do the project so that’s huge. Not to mention the enthusiasm of all the staff and students here.”
Nissen added, “We’ve been talking about how storm drains drain directly into creeks. I feel like people don’t actually know that. Many think that it goes to sewage but it actually just goes straight into the lake so we need to be careful what we put down there.”
The ladies’ task is teaching around themes that involve protecting the environment and respecting and valuing the local ecosystems. This project is a especially concrete and tangible for the kids; when they look at the fish, it is lasting legacy. Their fish as part of a community art piece, they can think about what it represents and it’s something to carry forward.