PITT RIVER (NEWS 1130) – A group of grade eight kids is excited that hard work pays off, as the class from Pitt River Middle School is the winner of BC’s “What’s In Your Back Yard?” Invasive Species Photo contest.
The province-wide contest is part of Invasive Species Action Month (May) and it’s specifically targeted to youth to get them involved in something important that they can take into their future.
“Once you start looking for knot weed…you’re going to realize what a big impact it has on the land. People will remember that and take action in their communities,” explains BC Invasive Species Council’s Gail Wallin.
It’s the first year the council held the contest and they received hundreds of entries. “It’s great when you see kids taking and adopting parts of their community and making a difference.”
Heidi Gawehns’ grade eight class took home the big prize after entering a series of photos. Gawehns says she got an email letting teachers know about the contest, and she thought it would be a great opportunity for the kids.
“I have a really great class this year, they’re really outgoing and will take on any challenge. It was a neat group that I could trust to take out into the community to check out invasive plants and take pictures.”
She says her aunt is an expert on invasive species, like ivy and blackberry bushes, and jumped at the chance to bring in a guest speaker.
“It allowed for us to have an outside expert come in and help us too, which adds kinds of a different level for the kids,” she explains. “The more the kids talked about it and started to look around the community we got more and more interested because every where we looked suddenly there were invasive plants.”
She says she assigned her students to look around the school yard, the community, and in their own backyards. They even took a field trip to Colony Farms to look around there for invasive plants.
The kids responded really well–some even coming back to school having done their own research to share with the class after the unit was done. She thinks the kids learned a lot from the contest and will take what they learned and use it at home.
The class was rewarded with a $350 cheque and the students will be as active in deciding what to do with their money as they were in winning it. Gawehns says she and her class are brainstorming what to do with the money, with the kids’ proposals due this week.
“Because they’re grade eights and they go off to school next year…we want to do something together that they can appreciate,” she says, adding she originally thought of spending the money on new equipment on the school.
“They need to do their research and see where we can go and how we’re going to get there and everything. Obviously I’ll have the final say to make sure it’s all feasible but they’re coming up with it.”
Gawehns says the kids are very excited and the May project was very neat. She thinks next year she’s going to start earlier in the semester and take the project a step further.