Archive for the ‘environmental issues’ Category

This is a continuation of my report on the ACER Our Schoolyard: Measuring our Resources Summer Institute I attended August 18-20th.  Read about day one here, as well as an intro to ACER.

Day 2

Don MacIver

Don MacIver was welcomed in the morning to speak with the learning teachers on environmental issues, more specifically, biodiversity.  Don MacIver is Director of Adaptation and Impacts Research Division (AIRD) for Environment Canada, a former professor of Climatology, the Mayor for the Municipality of Amaranth, and the author/co-author of numerous publications on environmental issues.  Don spoke with us about current research done on biodiversity, which in the case of Canada – is surprisingly little.  One of the problems is that “climate change” is the big issue, used more and more as a political buzzword.  Much of our real research on climate change and biodiversity has been increasingly cut over the past decades.  He told us that ACER is the ony organization doing this type of data collection which contributes to research at a global level. Mr. MacIver delivered a great presentation and is definitely very knowledgeable.  He was able to relate how different elements fit together: climate change, biodiversity, economics and more.

Tree Identification

The afternoon was spent learning about tree identification.  We were taught to use “bark key” (a kind of decision tree based on observations on bark, branches, buds) to identify trees.  This was a bit difficult and certainly more difficult than using a leaf key for identification.  The ACER project is usually completed in late fall to early winter when the leaves are gone, thus we had to learn the bark key.  It was a bit of a chalenge but by the end we were all getting the hang of it.  The team from ACER was supportive and promised to continue to be supportive once we begin projects at our own schools and run into tree id difficulties.



Day 3 was largely about going back to using GIS software.  GIS (Geographic Information Systems) are used in a wide variety of industries, howver, we were using GIS software to map he location of our trees.  What we covered today was much of what we didnt get to on day one.  On day one I missed the afternoon, we had learned how to import data from our GPS units into Excel, and then into the GIS software.  I wasn’t too worried about having missed that session as the manual provided by ACER was clear and straightforward.

We created a map with a satelite image of the are with the buildings and roads layed on top.  Using the data from the GPS we were able to show the location of the trees on our map based on their GPS locations.  The GPS software even allows us to see visually the locations of same species, or established vs new trees, or the range of tree height represented by colour.  We are able to do this because we actally imported a file of ACER’s data completly filled in.  It had all the data regarding tree hight, diameter, health, ID, etc. that we would have filled in at our own location.  The ACER team tried to cram in as much instruction as possible, we definitely got the basics and plenty of ideas on what else we could do with this tool in our classrooms.


Two of last years “graduates” came and shared their stories of what they accomplished with ACER at their own schools.  The ACER program helped them to further enhance their environmental clubs, and even helped them achieve gold and silver eco-school status!  We also had the chance to discuss with each other the possibilities and hurdles for implementing the program at our own schools.  Every one had a different concern, but hopefully we’ll all be able to make it happen.

That Wraps It Up…

The ACER Summer Institute was great.  It was a lot to take in over three days, but it was also a lot of fun.  Not only is the program incredible but so was the ACER team that worked with us.  It was also great to meet and discuss ideas with teachers from other schools across the region.  We are all looking for ways to educate and inspire students in environmental education, and it’s always helpful to find ou what other teachers are doing.

I strongly recommend to try and attend the Summer Institute as a representative of your school.  Contact ACER to get the details; this type program of only survives as there is a need for it.


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.