With water levels set to rise in Chestermere Lake at the end of April, teachers at a local middle school recently gathered more than 50 students to help clean the shoreline.
“We caught wind that there was no organized community clean-up like there usually is,” said Chestermere Lake Middle School teacher Mikkel Nannan. “Because of COVID-19, it wasn’t able to be done, so we figured it would be a great idea to get some kids out there.”
Nannan said it was important to get his Grade 7 students involved in a shoreline clean-up to promote supporting community initiatives and environmental stewardship.
“If they are shown these types of community initiatives early on in life, usually they will carry it on and be the ones that organize [similar initiatives] as they get older,” he said.
The clean-up lasted most of the morning on April 29. Students started by walking from the school and cleaned as they approached the lake. Their walk brought them to Anniversary Park, where they continued to pick up litter they found strewn along the beach and shoreline.
Environmental stewardship, according to Nannan, is ingrained in the Alberta Education curriculum and the fellowship of studies at Chestermere Lake Middle School.
“We are always doing things that look at how humans are involved with the environment,” he said. “Anytime you can figure out a way to make it hands on, it just brings it home.”
Flashing back more than 30 years for Nannan, he said he can remember when the Exxon Valdez oil spill took place in the Gulf of Alaska. He and several other students organized a group that went out and washed ducks and cleaned the impacted shoreline.
He said those are the kinds of hands-on initiatives that students take with them into the future and never forget.
“I am always looking for community initiatives that get the youth involved,” he said.
In addition to helping the environment, the clean-up was also a scientific learning opportunity, according to Nannan. He said it provided the opportunity to teach the students about flowering rush, which is an aquatic plant found along lake shorelines and slow-moving rivers, and in water up to nine feet deep.
He said the plant contains microbes that cause swimmers itch and also changes the body of water’s flow pattern. As an invasive species, Nannan said it is something to pay attention to.
“It’s an issue all over the place,” he said.
Nannan said he hopes the shoreline clean-up not only informed the students of the importance of protecting the environment, but was an experience the kids brought home and shared with their families and the community.
“It’s important to be aware of what we are putting into the environment, because it doesn’t just disappear,” Nannan said. “The beauty of Chestermere Lake is they drain it, so you can see what things are left behind, and there is the opportunity to pull it all out.