Students from Oak Bay High and the Netherlands take samples from Bowker Creek where it runs behind the high school. The samples are part of an international water quality study.

Creek study sends students to the Netherlands

Oak Bay students fundraise for overseas adventure with water

While many students fear the onset of fall, a handful of Oak Bay High students gearing up to study water, both at home and abroad.

The students study Bowker Creek, which runs through their schoolyard where a major restoration is underway by the Capital Regional District.

“We’re monitoring and surveying the creek before and after to see what effects the restoration has had and the impact on biodiversity,” said Robert Lee, a Grade 12 student participating in the Netherlands collaboration. “They sent some students here in April to participate in our water surveying activities.”

Students at Oak Bay High got involved early in the Bowker Creek restoration project through the CRD. They were part of information sessions two years ago, and started the testing past this school year.

“We wanted to get a baseline of data to determine what the health of the creek was,” said science teacher Derek Shrubsole. Students pulled on hip-waders and took water samples, then had a local company volunteer to provide analysis. They learned that Bowker Creek suffers the fate of many urban waterways – somewhere along the line, it’s garnering e-coli among other things found after rain washes contaminants in from the roadways.

“There’s no other smell or other signs that would indicate e-coli … it’s a typical urban waterway problem,” Shrubsole said. “We also looked at the riparian vegetation … trying to get a sense of going into this what do we have now.”

Oak Bay High is working with Maurick College in The Netherlands in an exchange centred around water security and sustainability. As part of this collaboration, Oak Bay hosted students from Maurick College during the Bowker Creek pre-restoration survey project in April.


“It’s also a time for a cultural exchange where they get to experience a different part of the world. They came here and did that. Then we’re going to go in October and be part of a water-based project there.”


Six local students will travel to the Netherlands this fall to participate in water research and a cultural exchange.

“We’re going to integrate with the Netherlands culture with the people who came here. Then we’re going to go up to the Unesco World Heritage site [Wadden Sea] to survey and analyze the water there as well,” Lee said. “I’m looking forward to meeting other students who are also interested in environmental sustainability and water security.”

The following June, a group of about six Grade 11 students will participate in a Water for the Wise youth conference, also in the Netherlands.

“I got involved because … it is necessary for teenagers to take action and make change in society around us,” said Anh Nguyen, a Grade 11 student who will head to the Netherlands next spring as part of the second trip. “It’s a really good opportunity to broaden my horizon and learn.”

The international conference expects to see students from about 40 schools.

“Everyone’s going to hear about what each other has done. It’ll be a chance for networking for students globally,” Shrubsole said.

Nguyen looks forward to seeing a different side to water security and sustainability.

“While it might be different … It’s a great opportunity for me to see water from another perspective, not just in the perspective of a person living in Canada,” she said.

The students hope to raise funds to help with travel costs, creating the Indigogo Life page Oak Bay High – Water Without Borders.


Learn more about the fundraising online at



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