Local students have been working hard to enhance the West Fernie Wetland, making it more turtle-friendly. The project is part of Wildsight’s EcoStewards program, in partnership with the Elk River Alliance, as part of their Accepting Beavers and Enhancing Wetlands initiative. Wildsight’s EcoStewards offers an opportunity for teachers and students to combine in-depth ecosystem learning with meaningful action, inspired and guided by student interest.
On June 4th, 19 students from Mrs. Bock’s Grade 6 class at Jaffray Elementary Secondary School constructed a turtle nesting site adjacent to the wetland. “Turtles have been nesting in a poor, unsafe location,” said Lee-Anne Walker with the Elk River Alliance. “After constructing an improved south-facing nesting site, reproduction success is expected to improve.”
This was a very difficult feat! Students dug out a basin in hard clay and gravel and lined it with a weed barrier. They hauled in sandy/gravelly loam donated by local business, Foothills Silviculture, raked it into the turtle nesting site and they built a turtle accessibility ramp. “Students put in a huge effort, showed amazing teamwork and class respect,” said local Wildsight educator, Ayla Bennett. “They understood the value of a community restoration effort, and their enthusiasm was endless.”
On June 12th, following a trip to learn about Turtles at Kikomun Provincial Park, Madame Jen’s Grade 4/5 French Immersion class from Ecole Isabella Dicken put their learning into practice. With Wildsight educator Janelle Park, they worked hard to complete the nesting site project started by the Jaffary class. Working together, the students moved two large sections of logs to make a floating basking platform and erected a fence behind the nest area to help keep the turtles off the road and keep unwanted animal from accessing the nesting area. They also beaver-wrapped 20 trees. In her learning journal at the end of the field day, Grade 5 student participant Nell wrote, “We have made a difference.”
Incredibly, on both days while classes were finishing up their projects, a turtle swam up and basked in the reeds across from the location, almost in a gesture of appreciation of the student effort!