In early April, some 40 eager students in grades 5 and 8 were taken on a tour of the Laurel Creek Nature Centre. The nature centre falls within southern Ontario’s ecologically fragile Carolinian zone and is part of the Grand River Watershed. Working together, staff with the Grand River Conservation Authority and JGI Canada showed the budding young naturalists the diverse plants and animals that depend on the watershed as well as the non-native species that are encroaching on the area.

The youth were part of the Friends of the Watershed initiative, a Roots & Shoots project generously funded by Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC), which supports habitat restoration in an area heavily affected by urban development, agriculture and climate change.

In June, the students of St. John Catholic Elementary got down to work. Joined by a team from TMMC, everyone pitched in to plant trees, replenish the soil and wildflowers in the pollinator garden, and remove invasive buckthorn plants. The results of their efforts contribute to a healthy habitat that also serves as a protective buffer from nearby residential developments.

By putting classroom learning into practice, students were able to see for themselves that they could each contribute to the conservation and ecological health of an important habitat. As one teacher said, “The ability to connect with nature and to see first-hand the impact of human activity and the impact of invasive species on other plants and animals was very powerful.

Photo credit: Hanna Smit

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