As Grade 5 students dug into their current unit of inquiry, Sharing the Planet, they learned from the pros at the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area. In their quest to understand how to be good stewards of the land, they discovered that the Cross family took action by gifting 4,800 acres of land to conservation, ensuring that important grassland and wetland habitats would be protected for years to come. They also contemplated the ideas of Aldo Leopold, an American conservationist, who suggested that once we see land as a community to which we belong, we will use land with love and respect.
Despite less than ideal weather, students spent a day at Goodwin Pond, collecting, examining and drawing invertebrates. They found many pouch snails, water striders and the occasional water boatman. After completing some scientific drawings, students used specific criteria to determine the health of Pine Creek, making careful scientific observations of plant life in the area. Jena in 5B said, ‘What I loved about Cross Conservation was going down to the pond and catching and observing all the insects.’
Day two saw the students learning about a second pond, noticing the impact of abiotic factors like lack of rain and lots of heat on the wetland ecosystem. Other groups traveled into the aspen forest to see how different ecosystems interact with and impact each other. After heading up to Sandy’s Lookout, where Sandy Cross once saw the City of Calgary creeping closer to his ranch, students engaged in a debate among stakeholders, or groups that have an interest in the land. It soon became clear that decision making about how we use land is not easy or straightforward. Students needed to reconcile the wants and needs of ranchers, oil and gas companies, agriculture, and conservation. That took a lot of effort! Armaan in 5B felt, ‘The best part was going in the teepee and learning about different stakeholders.’ Afterward, some students played the web of life game to represent the connections among plants and animals in an ecosystem.
This trip to the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area was a great way for Grade 5s to learn in the field, and helped them see how action can have a significant impact on our world. As Ava in 5B said, ‘It felt like I was melting into nature.’