FINCH — South Nation Conservation (SNC) partnered this week with Ontario’s Ministry of Education and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to host the 2017 St. Lawrence River Student Summit, October 16-18.
Nearly 100 Grade 11 and 12 high school students enrolled in a Specialist High Skills Major program at three participating school boards (Upper Canada, Ottawa-Carleton and Limestone) were brought together for three exciting days of discovery, innovation and collaboration.
“The Summit is designed to provide students with the opportunity to experience their local environment,” said John Mesman, SNC’s Team Lead, Communications and Outreach. “We’re introducing the challenges that we as environmentalists face in managing natural resources in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River basin.”
During the Summit, students were exposed to a wide variety of environmental and educational programming including invasive species removal, interpretive hikes, water quality testing, a boat cruise along the St. Lawrence River, and a leadership certification course.
The Summit included visits to sites throughout Eastern Ontario; including Spencerville, Kars, Gananoque, Godfrey and Kingston.
“Our goal is to increase teachers’ and students’ connection and awareness to the Great-Lakes and St. Lawrence River by inviting them to learn about the importance of protecting and restoring freshwater ecosystems.”
Each activity focused on preparing students to tackle an environmental challenge.
“We asked the students to assess how they might enhance, restore, and increase the value of riparian areas for the improvement of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River basin,” added Mesman.
“Riparian zones are areas where land meets water and are often subject to the highest developmental pressures, whether for residential or agricultural purposes.”
Students learned that these areas act as buffers when they contain a good amount of forest and wetland cover, with proper vegetation and biodiversity. They provide sediment and erosion control, water filtration, flood storage and help keep harmful pollutants on the landscape and out of the water.
On the final day of the Summit, student groups pitched their innovative ideas at the historic site of Fort Henry in Kingston to a panel of St. Lawrence River decision-makers, including senior staff from provincial ministries and partner organizations.
In any given year, SNC reaches over 4,000 youth through hands-on environmental education programs in Eastern Ontario. Guided by SNC’s environmental specialists and partners, youth learn about a range of conservation topics including, water protection, fisheries, forestry and even Ontario’s sweet maple syrup industry.