Although the sun was shining last Friday morning, there were storm clouds forming inside Palsson Elementary School as second graders got to control the rain during a presentation about rainwater impacts on fish ecosystems in and around Cowichan Lake.
On Friday, Kim Walters’ Grade 2 class received a presentation by Bob Crandall, president of the Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society, as part of the class’s ongoing lessons about salmon and their habitat.
“I am a real environmental buff myself and I just think it’s important that the kids know what goes on in the area around them,” said Walters, noting water’s central role for the communities of Cowichan Lake, particularly in terms of recreation and outdoor activities.
“I tell them: You can’t just change one thing in nature. What you do here is going to affect something else down the road. It’s really important for them to realize that,” she said.
This is one of the reasons Walters invited Crandall to come and speak with the children and to demonstrate the ways in which pollution can enter waterways.
Using a large plastic model of a town — complete with roads, farmland, tiny cars and a lake — Crandall added cocoa powder to represent loose top soil, Kool-Aid powder to represent fertilizers and pesticides, and dollops of chocolate sauce to represent oil on roadways and driveways. He then handed out spray bottles of water to the kids and had them “make it rain” over the miniature town and watch as the various substances dissolved and trickled into the plastic waterways and lake.
“This is one way to show kids what happens to pollution when it rains,” said Crandall, who explained to the students how sewers and storm drains differ.
Following the in-class presentation, the students went on a field trip to the fish hatchery where Crandall gave the students an opportunity to feed the hundreds of tiny fish in the tanks there.
“Our hatchery licence is based not upon production and not research, our hatchery licence is based upon education,” he said. “So that’s why we’re big on public education and public awareness.”
Every year, Walters’ Grade 2 students raise salmon from eggs and then release them into nearby Oliver Creek.
“For them, raising the salmon and seeing how everything is tied together with the watershed… they have that full understanding and appreciation of it,” Walters said.
Student Oliver Fawcett said the model demonstration taught him about how even garden soil can act as a pollutant if rain carries it into a nearby stream.
“Fish, they like to hide in weeds so you can’t put dirt in the water,” he said.
For many of his classmates, bringing a rainstorm down upon Crandall’s plastic town was the highlight of their morning.
“I liked when we flooded the town,” said Leylani Renton. “It was so fun.”