Recently, as part of the larger #RHSBouncingBack initiative, grade 10 and 11 Science students at Ridgemont High School, in partnership with the National Capital Commission (NCC), applied their learning to combat climate change as citizen scientists.
Students and staff alike were asked to #LookOutside the school’s walls and consider how they could contribute to their community. The Science Department shifted their respective unit plans so that themes such as ecosystems, biodiversity, invasive species, climate change and the impact of humans and natural events on the environment, could be aligned with a culminating action: applied Environmental Science.
The project was accomplished in three parts: 1) a Lecture Series facilitated by NCC scientists to Ridgemont Grade 10 Science Students and Grade 11 Biology Students on Oct 29, 2019, followed by 2) students planting 800 White Pines at Bruce Pit, an area affected by the tornado in Fall of 2018; and 3), actively supporting the restoration of the Pinhey Sand Dunes.
The Lecture series introduced the science behind the actions students would be undertaking as part of the project. Topics included: Capital Green Space Network, natural resources management, changing natural ecosystems including invasive species, disturbance events, and the scientists role at the NCC including land management, biodiversity monitoring, and improving ecological integrity through habitat restoration.
Students learned about the uniqueness of the Pinhey Sand Dunes including its habitat, native plants and insect species from NCC scientists. Students used rakes to remove pine needles from nearby invasive pines trees. The pine needles change the pH and composition of the native sands and interrupt the function of the insects that reside in the habitat. Students also planted native species in the area to maintain the natural habitat of the dunes.
Students learned how tornadoes were a large natural event that disturbed the habitat of Bruce Pit Conservation Area. They also learned how large storms such as tornadoes are becoming more common and more severe due to Climate Change. They were taught about how habitats recover after major natural disasters such as forest fires and tornados. The NCC collected the pinecones of trees from Bruce pit and turned them into seedlings. Ridgemont students were taught how to plant a tree including protective measures to ensure they are not crowded out by faster growing plants or damaged by small mammals. Ridgemont students planted 800 trees to assist in the restoration of this damaged habitat.
The work of supporting biodiversity, restoration, and reclamation is palatable in student reflections: topics essential to the current environmental ecosystem and foundational in the Ontario Science curriculum now have a clear connection to the climate action students experienced with the National Capital Commission. Students clearly understand that their actions can have a real impact, now. And their actions are connected to the science they are learning.