A unique project focused on helping School District 91 students in the Nechako watershed region become more connected to their waterways and communities has launched in Vanderhoof.
Koh-Learning in our Watersheds is a School District 91 – University of Northern British Columbia partnered project based on students, educators and partners learning together about ‘Koh’ – a word for waterway in Dakelh, the main Indigenous language of the traditional territories the school district encompasses.
“The project builds on a waterways monitoring program already piloted in high schools in School District 91, and is being expanded to connect integrative science, Aboriginal education and active collaborations with community and research initiatives,” said Dr. Margot Parkes, a UNBC Health Sciences associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Health, Ecosystems and Society. “The purpose is to transform learning in the Nechako region in ways that connects students, communities and waterways and fosters understanding of the land, water and living systems we depend on.”
By participating in the project, School District 91 students will become informed stewards of their local environments. Students will connect and engage with Koh-Learning partners, to learn about the environment, community and well-being connections in their watershed.
“Having our educators and students work with UNBC partners to create unique, authentic, community specific learning opportunities is incredible and fits so well into the overall vision for British Columbia’s revised K – 12 curriculum,” said Manu Madhok, School District 91 Superintendent. “Having our First Nations Educations Council, comprised of the 13 First Nations that we serve, support this work of vital importance to the School District and speaks to the importance of watersheds and fisheries to each of these communities.
"The use of the Dakelh word ‘Koh’ recognizes our commitment to ensuring that our students and educators understand the historical and current importance of healthy watersheds to vibrant communities.”
UNBC will work collaboratively with School District 91 staff, students and teacher champions as well as with University and local contacts in order to tailor the program to meet the needs of different schools and communities within the Nechako watershed.
A Memorandum of Understanding between UNBC and School District 91 was signed in 2017 to encourage collaborative efforts between the School District and the University. In keeping with this intent, this project is supported by existing initiatives from School District 91, the UNBC Integrated Watershed Research Group, and has received new funding from a PromoScience grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, the provincial regulator for energy development, also contributed $10,000 to the project.
Community partners who supported the proposal include the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, the First Nations Education Council, the Nechako Environment and Water Stewardship Society (NEWSS) and the Nechako Watershed Roundtable.