There’s no hibernating at Wildsight. Throughout the colder months, the organization boosts the curriculum of thousands of young students around the Columbia Basin with hands-on outdoor education — and Eileen Madson Primary (EMP) was one of the beneficiaries over the past two months.
Lessons are tailored for each school by local biology professionals, who teach valley students about winter’s effect on the ecosystem they’re a part of.
“A lot of the (typical) winter programs in schools… they’re about polar bears and penguins, when there are amazing animals that live in the Columbia Basin, right in our own backyard,” said Lindsay Cuff, communication manager at Wildsight.
Wildsight’s Winter Wonder program, which caters to kindergarten through to Grade 3 students, brought about visits to Invermere on Monday, January 12th, Tuesday, February 3rd and Thursday, February 5th.
Instructing the Winter Wonder program at EMP was Kimberley-based biologist Dave Quinn, who’s better known by the students as Captain Powder.
Quinn has filled the role since it came about nine years ago, and said that when he later taught avalanche safety at the high school level, Grade 11 and 12 students recognized “Captain Powder” as the senior students were part of the Winter Wonder Program many years earlier.
“To me, that’s direct evidence that these programs really resonate with kids and get them stoked about the really cool part of the world we live in,” he said.
“Great student response to Wildsight’s Captain Powder as he discussed climate change and the impact that it can have on several local species,” said EMP principal Mark Koebel. “The Captain answered numerous questions, and ended the day with a lesson on detective work… identifying animals that had been in the area by examining markings left on trees or tracks left in the snow and mud.”
The kids were taken to an area near the school known as Bongo Land, which is normally off-limits to the students.
“It’s a neat little corner of the school yard that rarely gets used by the kids, so it’s pretty special for them to go down there,” Quinn said. “It’s full of deer tracks, birds nests, and all kinds of neat signs of nature that you don’t find around the school yard.”
Among the topics covered by Quinn were the different forms that snow can take, winter sports that are played in other parts of the world, and how wildlife deals with the challenges of winter.
He said that sharing his expertise in snow and mountain ecology is exciting for the students, and ties into their curriculum.
“And it pushes them a little bit outside what they’d normally get to do.”
The Winter Wonder program has been made possible by funding from the Columbia Basin Trust since its inception.