Lake Simcoe Science
Part 2: Hatching Friendships Through Fish
In part one of this series, we explored the partnership between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), Waabgon Gamig First Nation School and Morning Glory Public School. Part 2 of the series reveals how we got involved in a further expansion of the program.
Kerry Ann sought out a way to add even more hands-on experiences for the children, and contacted Dana Eldon, Outreach Coordinator for the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority. They worked out the addition of an aquatic planting component as an activity to get the kids even more engaged with the land and water, and also with one another.
They could time the activities to coincide with the fish rearing and release, rounding out the program to help draw the connection between the health of the land with the health of the lake as well as the health and survival of the Lake Trout they raise and care for all winter.
In March, both schools get a visit from Dana, who shows them how to plant and grow aquatic plants from seed. With the newly planted seeds and instructions, Dana hands off the care of the plants to the students.
They will care for them until spring, Dana checking in on their progress occasionally throughout the following months, encouraging the children to keep a journal about their plants and write short stories or poems. In June, when the fish fry release takes place, Dana also leads the aquatic planting.
LSRCA plants roots across the watershed
The Georgina Island program sparked further collaborations. Dana has adopted a “terrestrial” planting program based on her work with the aquatic planting program. Both versions of the program, aquatic or terrestrial, are now available to schools across the watershed.
Connecting with the Creek
The connections between Georgina Island and LSRCA don’t begin or end with the aquatic planting program. LSRCA and the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation recently completed a joint subwatershed plan for the Georgina Islands subwatershed. It identified Gertie’s Creek, the main creek running through Georgina Island, as an area in need of restoration.
The creek was experiencing obstructions in flow, flow channelization (straightening) and perched culverts that were obstructing fish passage and migration.
In fall 2016, work began on restoring the creek based on the issues identified. The students of Waabgon Gamig also helped by planting plants and shrubs along the edge of the creek to enhance the restoration. In 2017, the aquatic planting program described took place along the banks of the newly restored creek, supporting the work of the subwatershed plan recommendations.
Keeping the Momentum: Monitoring Gertie's Creek
The staff and students at Waabgon Gamig School on Georgina Island are now also engaged in their own monitoring program specifically for Gertie’s Creek. The LSRCA Education Team provided basic monitoring techniques, materials and some tools to the staff and students, and they now undertake regular monitoring of the creek. They are collecting information on water temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH and phosphorus levels.
They are also collecting benthic invertebrate samples (aquatic bugs and other critters) to help them assess the health of the creek.
Exploring Further Connections
We are extremely proud of our collaboration with the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation. They have a unique, strong and long standing connection to Lake Simcoe.
We are excited about opportunities to continue to expand our collaboration and our shared goal to improve the health of the lake. For example, while still very much in the idea phase, we hope to embark on a program that includes high school students as mentors and add indigenous language learning.