Classrooms look nearby for nature-knowledge

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo Ecology North's Kim Rapati talks about the Hay River as an example of a Northern water systems, which will be a theme in the new environmental curriculum introduced in NWT schools.

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo
Ecology North’s Kim Rapati talks about the Hay River as an example of a Northern water systems, which will be a theme in the new environmental curriculum introduced in NWT schools.

It can be hard for teachers to incorporate new things into their curriculum, much less when those things have little to do with the place in which they are teaching.

Ecology North and the World Wildlife Foundation have teamed up to help schools and educators overcome those issues with a new, Northern-focused set of lesson plans for grades three through eight.

“There are a lot of teachers every year who a new to the North,” said Ecology North’s Kim Rapati. “The idea is to give them something they can teach with examples from here that the kids will relate to.”

Rapati said the WWF has had similar plans available for Canadian schools free online for years, but found that schools in the North just weren’t making use of them.

“For whatever reason, teachers here just weren’t accessing them,” she said.

So with a grant from CIBC, WWF turned its attention North and started looking for partners. Rapati said the whole project has been a lot of fun, saying that working out the units has been a good collaborative project.

They consist of two booklets for each grade, with each year focused on one theme. The theme for Grade 3, for instance, is all about soils in the North and how plants grow in them. Other grades will learn about sun energy, snow, waste reduction and Northern waters.

“I think that sounds really fun,” said student Sarah Buth. “I’d like to learn about all of those things.”

Buth also said that although she didn’t know much about snow beyond that it was cold, she would interested to learn about the science behind it as well as how humans interact with it, all contained in the booklet.

Rapati said that while she believes there needs to be a larger place for learning about ecology and the environment in all schools, she is eager to see the benefits here at home.

“Sometimes it can be difficult to incorporate local and new issues into classes, especially for teachers who are new to the area and maybe don’t have a strong connection to it,” she said. “This is a great way of doing just that, and there are a lot of NWT-specific resources out there for them.”

-Sarah Ladik