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Posted: July 2, 2023

For the love of trees

Submitted by Wildsight

Students in Cranbrook’s Kootenay Orchards Elementary School learned about the beauty and intricacy of trees, and connected with the landscape around them in deep and meaningful ways this school year.

Through Wildsight’s EcoStewards program, Educator Patty Kolesnichenko joined Anneli Schadeli’s Grade 4-5 class to study forest biology and ecology. The class first explored the small forest right on the school property, then took a field trip to Wycliffe Regional Park.

They learned how trees communicate and collaborate as a community, and what services trees provide to the ecosystem around them. They also explored how we are all connected to nature, and all have a role to play in protecting it!

“Students were able to make direct connections to how important a healthy and diverse ecosystem is to the health of a forest community and our planet,” says Kolesnichenko. “The students expressed that they felt a greater connection to their school forest, and that they enjoyed learning outside, spending time in nature and feeling close to nature and trees.”

EcoStewards supports students in gaining a better relationship and awareness with the natural world, right outside their classroom. Students are able to make direct connections to how important a healthy and diverse ecosystem is to the health of their own community.

As part of her own learning, Kolesnichenko began diving into Suzanne Simard’s research, including The Mother Tree Project, Simard’s TED talk on How Trees Talk To Each Other and her recent book, Finding the Mother Tree.

“Suzanne’s work inspired me to find a way to bring this important information to students, knowing that once they realized that trees speak to each other and act like a community, they would be keen to learn more, and they do,” says Kolesnichenko. “The amazing imaginations, compassion and creativity of young people is incredible, so when sharing this research, which has been also understood by Indigenous peoples for years now, they take to it and want to learn more and protect the trees, which translates to a deeper connection to the natural world and wanting to protect it.”

Following the in-class and in-field learning, students then took on a stewardship project, seeking to share their knowledge about the importance of a healthy forest in their overused school yard, which currently is devoid of any helpful water saving plants and understory. The students worked together to come up with ideas to share with the rest of their school, community, school administration and Parent Advisory Board to improve the diversity and health of their forested area.

The EcoStewards program wrap-up included a wonderful visit to the Nupqu Native Plant Nursery to learn about native plants and trees, hear how the Ktunaxa use various plants on a guided hike in a nearby forest trail, and collect further information on what students can plant in the school forest to help support biodiversity.

Wildsight thanks the Columbia Basin Trust, Community Foundation of the Kootenay Rockies, Consecon Foundation, Copernicus Education Products, Fortis BC, LeRoi Community Foundation, the Province of British Columbia, TD Friends of the Environment, Wildlife Habitat Canada, and all of our individual donors for making this program possible.

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