It was a boots-on-the-ground educational field program that saw over 125 students in the South Okanagan heading outdoors to take part in conservation this spring.
The conservation and restoration of endangered antelope brush habitat program gave the kids a learning opportunity in scientific fieldwork, key environmental sustainability concepts such as biodiversity, and connectivity.
“This program used an action-based stewardship approach to help students learn about antelope brush ecosystems and engage meaningfully as part of the solution,” Allison Dietrich, teacher and coordinator of the antelope brush restoration field trips said in a press release.
“Stewardship is a shared community responsibility and teaching our youth how to care for their environment is one of the most important ways we can invest in their future.”
Several South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program partners worked together, including Nature Trust of BC, Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society, Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship, Penticton Museum, Anona Kampe, Penticton Indian Band knowledge-keeper and Osoyoos Desert Centre to build the program.
Students focused their fieldwork on three Nature Trust antelope brush properties near Vaseux Lake where they planted approximately 150 antelope brush seedlings and have continued to water and monitor them over the course of several weeks.
Key aspects of conservation and restoration work including animal tracks, scat and skull identification, identifying and eliminating invasive plants, snake smart practices and local plant species knowledge were taught throughout the course.
Some classes took part in a traditional ecological knowledge and storytelling session with knowledge-keeper, Anona Kampe and students also visited the Osoyoos Desert Centre to get a closer look at a recovering Antelope-brush habitat and to learn more about the at-risk species that rely on it for their survival.
“We are very pleased this initial pilot program has been so successful. There is definitely interest from all of the teachers involved this year to take part in stewardship education projects next year and in years to come,” Dietrich said. “Several teachers have opted to extend the program to a full-year program starting this September and we are also hoping to expand the program to involve even more students.”