A School District 91 project helping students become stewards of the waterways in the Nechako watershed region was announced in Vanderhoof on Feb. 25.
School District 91 (SD91) superintendent Manu Madhok, said, “Healthy water means generally healthier community… We are moving to a time kids actually go out and do authentic work in the community and their results are appreciated. These students are becoming stewards of the community they live in.”
Koh-Learning in our Watersheds is a SD91 and UNBC partnered project. The word ‘Koh’ means ‘river’ in Dakelh – a language spoken in the central interior of British Columbia – but is also a play on words to signify working together, Madhok explained.
This project has been in the works for the past four years, he said, noting SD91 had received a $10,000 grant from Mount Milligan that time which was used to purchase a stream keepers kit for students in every high school.
Following that the school district got their teachers trained by collaborating with Pacific Streamkeepers Foundation, Madhok said. Teachers were trained on effectively using the kit to monitor waterways.
The stream keepers kit is a science kit that a student can use to measure the flow of water, judge whether there is fish in the stream, measure insects and pH levels – all indicators to understand the health of the waterway, he said.
Using the word ‘Koh’ from Dakelh is to recognize SD91’s commitment to ensuring that students and educators understand the historical and current importance of healthy watersheds to vibrant communities, Madhok said.
“Our school district serves 13 different First Nations communities, so approximately 40 percent of our students are from these communities. So as part of our proposal we made sure our First Nations Education council was aware of our project and they strongly support it,” he said.
Even though the project focuses on the Nechako River, most of which is in Vanderhoof – other communities under SD91 have teachers involved in the work.
He said the community support for the project over the years has been extraordinary.
“Community partners have really stepped up to the table to support students. The landowners, farmers that allow our students to look at streams that pass through their properties has helped immensely,” Madhok said.
One challenge is ensuring the project remains sustainable, he said. “Because I’ll have a lot of upset students if we go back to teaching in the old way. Our challenge is to make sure that we are doing everything we can, so that this happens for all kids across our District.”
Meanwhile, UNBC will be working collaboratively with staff, students and teachers from SD91 in order to meet the needs of different schools and communities within the Nechako watershed, Madhok added.
UNBC and SD91 had signed an Memorandum of Understanding in 2o17 to encourage collaboration. Madhok said the partnership with Dr. Margo Parkes, a UNBC Health Sciences associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Health, Ecosystems and Society has been really beneficial for students and teachers.
This project is supported by community partners like the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, the First Nations Education Council, the Nechako Environment and Water Stewardship Society and the Nechako Watershed Roundtable, he said. SD91 also received funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada through a grant, Madhok added.