Ian Bruce, executive co-ordinator of the Peninsula Stream Society, stands with McKenzie Elementary school students and other participants in an interpretive signage project bringing environmentally-themed art to the wooden bridge across Swan Creek. (Wolf Depner/News staff)

Saanich elementary students draw attention to local ecosystem with art

Grade 4/5 students attending McKenzie Elementary produce poems and pictures for Swan Creek bridge

The salmon may or may not appreciate the prose paintings now gracing Swan Creek bridge. But their creators have sure come to appreciate the salmon.

Before her school teamed up with local environmentalists and painter Carolyn Knight to produce the art, Devon Jenkins did not know much about salmon.

Several months later, the Grade 5 student attending McKenzie Elementary marvels about the role that salmon play in protecting the local ecosystem.

“I’m now more aware of the creek [and] the plants around it,” she said. “I never knew any of this before we started the project.”

RELATED: Truckloads of junk pulled from Colquitz fish habitat

The Peninsula Stream Society first drew up the idea of combing artistry with ecology years ago when it teamed up with students from Colquitz Middle School for a comparable project highlighting the ecology of the Colquitz River — the destination river of Swan Creek.

The society found a willing partner in nearby McKenzie Elementary, whose Grade 4/5 class visits the creek on a regular basis.

Its teacher, Lisa Schneider, loved the idea after her teaching partner Margaret Yee had raised it.

“It fit in really well with the curriculum,” said Schneider.

Supported financially by the society and logistically by volunteers from the Friends of Swan Creek Watershed, some 20 students worked with Knight to produce dozens of art pieces informing the public about salmon and other wildlife. Work on the pieces started in the middle of 2017 and did not wrap up until two weeks ago, when the District of Saanich mounted them.

RELATED: Peninsula Streams given $10K towards restored Colquitz watershed

“So it’s a great community effort to involve children in active acknowledgment, recognition and stewardship of their natural environment,” said Ian Bruce, the society’s executive co-ordinator during the unveiling of the panels Thursday.

Ryan Painter, a trustee with SD 61, agreed. “You come here and you read the poems, and you look at the pictures, you really get a sense of how meaningful and impactful this is for the kids.”

Fostering this awareness ranks among the long-term goals of this project, said Francesca Loro, the society’s stewardship co-ordinator.

“The children are our hope for the future, and Swan Creek is a place these particular children know very well,” she said. “They are familiar with it, they see it through the season, they care about it.”


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