Engrossed by the EcoVan


By Sheila Runions

Rivers Banner

According to a press release from Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), their “education programs are shaping conservation leaders for today and tomorrow.” Their award-winning programs include hands-on teaching to students of all ages through the travelling classroom from Oak Hammock Marsh. The marsh, located northeast of Winnipeg, is an “award-winning non-profit interpretive centre whose mission is to connect people with wetlands. For groups who cannot make it to the marsh, the interpretive centre’s EcoVan will come to them with a variety of interactive, curriculum-based education programs.” The EcoVan was in this area last week, visiting schools in Oak River, Rapid City and Rivers. The stops were paid for by Little Saskatchewan River Conservation District and occurred between March 22-24.

At Rivers Elementary on March 23, nature interpreters Chris Herc and Samantha Howell worked with all classes. Kindergarten students were able to see and touch taxidermy birds during Neat Feet and Beaks. The two Grade 1/2 classes either had a Birdfeeder craft class (suet pine cone feeders) or Animal Detective, playing a Clue-like game with foot prints, bird seed, etc. All three Grade 3/4 classes participated in Voyageur Challenge which had students wear fur clothing that voyageurs likely wore, as well as playing sportsmanship games to test strength, balance, aim and more. The two Grade 5/6 classes learned Wacky Weather; Chris explained to them the difference between weather and climate. He taught how animals prepare for changing seasons and he took them outside to discover micro climates around the school, where they learned how to use anemometers (instruments used to measure wind speed), thermometers, compasses, etc.

This year the EcoVan has travelled as far north as Dauphin, south/west to Virden and east to Kenora, Ont. At every stop, nature interpreters educate listeners on the importance of preserving our environment and at every stop, their audiences were held captive by not only the information but the many visual aids. DUC reports 90 per cent of wetlands in southern Manitoba have been drained, which is primarily to blame for larger and more frequent floods as well as more algae bloom in Manitoba’s lakes. 

“Wetlands are essential for the health of our environment,” reads the release. “We rely on the ecological services they provide: cleaning water, reducing flood damage, protecting against drought, moderating the effect of climate change by storing carbon, controlling erosion, supporting biological diversity and recharging ground water resources.” DUC helps shape policies that protect wetlands which “ensures the environmental, economic and social health and wealth of all Manitobans. Despite all this hard work, we are steadily losing more wetlands in Manitoba than are being restored.”