Environmental science

7 Summits: Biology up close and personal

“I hear, I know. I see, I remember. I do, I understand”– Confucius.

Seven Summits Center for Learning students participated in a biology trip that toured various ecosystems to learn about environmental science.

“The Biology trip has usually occurred every two years with 7S,” explained facilitator and teacher Jennifer Boutilier. “Unfortunately, in 2020, the trip was canceled due to COVID and could not happen in 2021 due to restrictions and uncertainties.

“It is truly a labor of love to plan the trip for the students in the hopes that what they get out of it is the same reason I am passionate about biodiversity and why I have focused my entire education and career in this field. The trip is about learning from experts who devote their lives to conservation and education.

“It is about being in spaces such as museums, research stations, the forest, and beaches to have a hands-on experience of learning about the incredible biodiversity in our beautiful and diverse province.”

The students headed west to Osoyoos to experience a desert center featuring a desert ecosystem. The walkway took the students on a self-guided tour to learn about Okanagan flora and fauna. Next, it was back in the van to travel westward to the Pacific Coast.

On the coast, the students stayed at the UBC dorms, toured the campus and met current undergraduates.

“I loved staying in the dorms because it gave me a glimpse into my future; saying hello to university students was cool. Staying at the school was a lot of fun,” said Kaydance Nowak, a Grade 11 student.

Students went to the Beaty Biodiversity Museum on the UBC campus, where they explored the natural history of many animal collections. The massive building houses over two million specimens and an atrium display of skeletons from whales, sea lions, and dolphins.

Exhibits include the collections of fossil, fish, entomological, marine invertebrate, tetrapod, and herbarium collections. The timelines of animals through their evolution and adaptations were fascinating to students.

“From the entire experience, I learned much more about the biodiversity of animals and its importance, more about phyla and classes that separate animals from one another, the special abilities that some raptors have, and different adaptations that animals have acquired over the years, ” said Alianne Trickett, a Grade 10 student.

The following day the students packed up for Vancouver Island with the destination of Nanaimo as their first stop. The students learned about the biological importance of wolves during a visit with Gary R. Allan, who owns a half-wolf named Tundra. The education regarding wolves was about the direct connection to nature and the need for wolves in a healthy ecosystem as apex predators. Unfortunately, since the visit in May, Tundra died.

Next, the students toured the Pacific Northwest Raptors Sanctuary. There they learned about the birds of prey and their different adaptations. They watched a demonstration of Hercules, the bald eagle and Goblin, the vulture. Other birds on show were various owls and hawks.

Then the group headed off to Comox, the headquarters of 7S learning partners in School District 71. Students enjoyed a BBQ and gifts from their hosts while they toured the facility and spent the night in the gym.

The following day students traveled 78 kilometers to Deep Bay, off the waters of Baynes Sound, to participate in tide pooling at Vancouver Island University Deep Bay Research Station, where they learned about shellfish and mollusks.

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They went tide pooling to uncover oysters, crabs, clams, and whatever other exciting species could be found. The marine biology research facility allowed students to interact with starfish, sea cucumbers, and urchins using a touching tank. Marine biologists from the station gave exciting presentations, showed the hatcheries, and answered the students’ questions.

One scientist explained that the whale’s skeleton is porous and filled with oil to facilitate buoyancy. Also, a killer whale skeleton was disassembled for students to put together like a puzzle. This day presented many opportunities for discovery learning.

Next, the students boarded the ferry to return to Horseshoe Bay and retire to the UBC dorms.

In the morning, the students toured the UBC Botanical Garden’s Greenheart Canopy TreeWalk.

This suspended walk through the forest gave the students an original viewing point to see flora without causing damage. Different trees could be identified by the bark, leaves, and visible features. Ferns and ground cover were also observed for trademark features.

“The trip is about students learning to be empathetic to humans’ impacts on biodiversity, the importance of conserving and preserving, and how they can contribute to this goal within their own lives,” said Boutelier. The more they learn, the more students will be empathetic and aware of the efforts to protect all organisms.”

The students marveled at the engineering of the canopy walk held up by ropes and wires up to 23 meters high. It opened in 2008 as a suspended walkway hung through 100-year-old Douglas firs, cedars, and grand fir trees.

This aerial trail system is over 300 meters long, and offers a spectacular showcase of the sights and sounds of the forest. In addition, the engineering of the walkway provided students with a bird’s vantage point, far above the forest floor.

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“This was probably my favorite as it was just a nice change from the other places we went to, and I found it remarkable that so many different types of plants would thrive in one place,” said Audry Hall, a Grade 11 student.

After four and a half days of discovery and experiential learning with interactive natural sciences, the 7S students turned eastward back to their home in Rossland.

Students summarized the message that individually defined their experiences in the following ways.

“I learned to gain a greater appreciation for the different organisms and ecosystems around us and to be more aware of our actions’ effects on the world,” said Regan Miller, a Grade 12 student.

“The main message I took away from this trip is not to take advantage of living organisms and open my mind to the many millions of species that I have yet to learn about,” said Trickett.

“I learned a lot of things about other organisms. I think the trip focused on Biology 11 and biodiversity, so I learned a ton about how animals and plants survive,” said Nowak.

“I also learned how fun a school trip could be. It was great to hang out with friends in a different environment, and I felt closer to everyone after the trip. I learned how different agriculture in Vancouver is from the Kootenays. I was so fascinated by all the tropical and cool plants. I learned about ocean life, and it was just so much fun.

Read: 7 Summits students aspire to inspire

Read: Mountains to Climb

Rossland school curriculum

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