ACER Our School Yard 2008 Day 1

Posted: August 19, 2008 in environmental issues, Uncategorized
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Today I was off to Appleby College in Oakville.  Appleby was hosting the 2008 Our School Yard Summer (OSY) Institute organized by the Association for Canadian Educational Resources (ACER.)  I had read about the ACER OSY program earlier in the year and really had only a basic knowledge of the event.  All the same, I was very excited to find out that I was able to attend this years program.


For those interested in monitoring trees on their own land or schoolyard of any size or shape, ACER offers a program that enables students, clubs, groups, or individuals to accurately collect data to monitor tree growth.

For teachers, this is a cross curriculum, multi-grade method where students can combat climate change hands-on. We teach you how to roll this program out at your own school, and support you on the way.

That’s the basics and I will try and fill in some more pieces as I continue through the three day course.  I am going to focus mainly on the day to day events of the course.  If you would like to read about ACER’s great work in the domestic and international communities, please visit the ACER homepage.

Day 1 Begins

I should start by saying that I had to miss part of the afternoon session.  I only found out I could attend the OSY seminar after I had an appointment that I couldn’t change. I found out later that day three would allow me some time to go back over what I would miss.

The day began (like any good workshop for teachers) with coffee and muffins.  These were given by Appleby College in addition to them hosting the event free of charge.  We then were greeted by some of the ACER team and introduced more thoroughly to what we would be doing over the next few days.  Much of what we would be doing this first day is learning what duties we as teachers would have our students perform.  The buzz of eco-excitement was in the air as we sent outside for our first session.

Activity 1: Sketch Mapping

Our first task was for our group to sketch the courtyard outside Appleby’s Dining Hall.  Students normally would be sketching whatever area on school grounds being monitored.  This was done mainly with long flexible measuring tapes.  We began with sketching the perimeter and adding in notable structures.  We also placed courtyard trees on our map being sure to measure their distances to their surroundings.  The actual sketching was done by myself (I will add a copy here when I can.)  Our leader Doug lead us through the exercise and provided it us with some information on compass use, and bearing.  After all – every map needs a compass rose.

Activity 2: Tree Measurement

The protocol used by ACER states that we are going to record trees that have a diameter of greater than 4cm at 1.3m up the tree.  That obviously eliminates young trees – we are recording “mature” trees.  This involved using a clinometer and tan tables to determine tree height, a diameter tape or graduated calipers to measure diameter, as well as a regular tape measure for crown width.  It was pretty interesting and with all the hands on work I’m sure students would enjoy the activity.  Our leader Alice also showed us how to look at tree health as well as a brief introduction to tree identification (something we will be doing later on.)

Activity 3: GPS Plotting

Using GPS units we went out to mark the locations of our trees.  This was pretty simple as GPS units have some sort of marl waypoint feature.  We marked our trees as waypoints and renamed them in the GPS so we would be able to identify the plots later.  These plots recorded as x,y coordinates will be entered into GIS software to create a map and a digital representation of our courtyard.

Actvity 4: QGIS

Ok, so this is where I unfortunately had to leave.  But I was able to later read the walkthrough in the resources binder we were given.  I feel pretty comfortable that I would be able to muddle through creating a map and importing the tree waypoints thanks to this guide.  Again, I will be able to go over this again on day three and will fill in this gap.

The day offered a great deal of information to absorb.  It is shaping up to be a great experience and something I will definitely try and share with my students.  I don’t teach Science or Geography so this may be something that gets done by our schools’ environmental club.  I may also try and work with a Geography teacher to incorporate some/all of the activities into their coursework.

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