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.
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.
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.