The Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards (SCCWS) partnered with several other stewardship groups to create a series of three loanable educational kits that offer a fun and interactive way for children and youth to learn more about the importance of watersheds.
SCCWS Executive Director Kevin Steinley said youth education has always been a large part of the work of watershed stewardship groups, but since 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic limited the opportunities to make in-person presentations to schools and youth groups.
The SCCWS therefore looked at other opportunities to continue watershed stewardship education and partnered with four other groups to develop the Watershed Wonders education kits.
“We’re hoping that youth and families use these kits and learn more about their watershed and what they can do to help protect the health of the watershed and the plants and the animals and everything else that are in the watershed and rely on the watershed,” he said.
The other watershed stewardship groups in southern Saskatchewan that participated in this initiative are the Moose Jaw River Watershed Stewards, Old Wives Watershed Association, South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards, and Wascana & Upper Qu’Appelle Watersheds Association Taking Responsibility.
“Part of this come out of a project that we did with Moose Jaw River Watershed Stewards in 2020,” he noted. “In the summer of 2020, when we weren’t able to get out and give presentations, we worked with the Moose Jaw River Watershed Stewards to hire somebody to do a review of the curriculum and redo curriculum, and a lot of that information went into the design of the kits.”
The five watershed stewardship groups received funding from the Water Security Agency and Plains Midstream Canada to develop the three education kits. They were developed for children and youth between the ages of six and 13 plus, but the information will be of interest to anyone.
Each kit includes a guide providing information for five to six activities. Other interesting items are also included with the different kits, for example models, animal track stamps, and a real beaver pelt and skull. The kits are available for use by schools, youth groups and families.
“One family picked up a kit when the grandkids were coming over Christmas,” he said. “So it was something for them to do over Christmas.”
Each kit can be used as a standalone educational tool, but a more complete picture will be provided when all three kits have been used.
The Beaver Trails and Cattails kit provides information about the different animals living in a watershed, and it also identifies different native and invasive plants. The five activities in this kit include an invasive plant board game.
The Watershed and Me kit aims to teach users more about their watershed, the importance of watershed health, and the impact of human activities on the landscape. There are six activities and this kit includes a watershed model.
The third kit is titled Getting our Feet Wet. It provides information about the importance of wetlands and riparian areas, and explains why beavers and other animals are important to a watershed. There are five activities, including the Macro Mania activity to learn more about macroinvertebrates in streams and water quality.
The initial phase to raise awareness about the Watershed Wonders kits and to distribute them for use have been completed successfully by the five watershed stewardship groups. There were 51 social media posts that were viewed about 11,000 times. The kits were used by 18 camps, and borrowed by three schools and 19 individuals. The kits were used by 1,164 children.
Positive feedback was received about these kits. They were described as fun, informative, unique and useful for hands-on learning.
Comments from teachers indicated that students enjoyed the kits, became more aware of their watershed, and took away an important message from each activity. Students enjoyed the information about watershed animals, the animal tracking exercise, and they were interested in the beaver skull and pelt.
“I think it’s been very positive,” Steinley said about the feedback. “People said that it kept kids engaged. I do know that a Hutterite colony school had used it. The teacher used all three kits and said that he was able to keep his students right from Grade 1 to Grade 8 engaged. So it’s got something for kids of every age, is what they’ve said. And everybody said it’s been a good experience using it and it’s useful for them to use to help teach about the watershed environment and our place in it.”
He felt youth programming is an important component of the work of watershed stewardship groups and these kits will help to increase learning and awareness about watersheds.
“It’s very important that the kids start thinking about it when they’re young, and then grow into it, so that we’re developing the next generation of stewards,” he said.
The Watershed Wonders education kits are available from all five participating watershed stewardship groups. Anyone interested in borrowing one of the three kits from the SCCWS can contact Steinley by calling 306-770-4607 or sending an e-mail to email@example.com