Kids Teaching Kids: The Tantramar Wetlands Centre Project
Originally appears in the Summer 2006 issue
Wetlands are the planet’s second most biologically diverse habitats, and over half of world’s endangered species depend in some way upon wetlands for their survival. They can prevent damage due to flooding, help purify water and provide many recreational opportunities. Unfortunately, too many people still view wetlands as wastelands. While policies and regulations are in place in most jurisdictions to provide some measure of protection for wetlands, education can be a more powerful and long lasting approach to wetland conservation. The success of the Tantramar Wetlands Centre in New Brunswick clearly demonstrates this.
Tantramar Regional High School in Sackville, New Brunswick, has developed a wetlands education centre that each year attracts thousands of students and teachers from across the Atlantic region, who come to participate in a variety of experiential programs that are delivered in large part by the Tantramar students themselves. The project has earned national recognition for its innovative approach to teaching and learning about the environment, and it has certainly captured the attention of the school’s own student population, over 100 of whom are involved in the project. Known as “Wetheads,” these students manage a unique facility that includes a restored wetland and a teaching facility where visitors are introduced to the importance of wetlands through participation in a host of hands-on activities, from banding ducks to trapping muskrats.
Designed as an outdoor classroom, the 15-hectare freshwater wetland impoundment allows great views of wildlife and immediate access to the water. A fully equipped wet lab and teaching theater are just steps away from the cattails in space that once housed the school’s automotive program. With Tantramar’s immediate proximity to the main highway connecting New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and its location just minutes away from the bridge to Prince Edward Island, there are over 60,000 students in three provinces that are less than an hour from the Centre.
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Chris Porter has taught science at Tantramar Regional High School in Sackville, New Brunswick, for over 30 years, and has been the Executive Director of the Tantramar Wetlands Centre since its inception. For more information, visit the TWC website at <www.weted.com>.