The crowd was not huge, but reaction was very positive.
Some 75 people attended a presentation on Systems Ecology; Holistic Planning for Today and Tomorrow at the Salmar Classic Theatre on Feb. 3.
Systems ecologist Barry Wilson and Salmon Arm Secondary teacher Dave Ramsay have combined their talents and love for science and the planet to create the BC Tomorrow Society.
The purposes of the society are to better understand the process of sustainable planning and explore options for balancing human land-use with ecological integrity.
To take this into schools, Wilson and Ramsay are developing innovative computer software and related educational tools that interactively explore land use in local watersheds and develop critical thinking skills and improved understanding of system dynamics.
Early in the presentation, Wilson explained that systems ecology provides holistic understanding of humans, natural forces and landscapes in a way that takes into account people, the planet and prosperity – a system that “makes sense of a hairball of data.”
Ramsay explained that when he saw the Shuswap Environmental Action’s Shuswap Watershed Project in 2010, he had a eureka moment about why he was teaching students about other areas when he could be teaching them about their own.
He earned his masters in education based on a curriculum he built around the Shuswap watershed and has integrated parts of it into his own science classes.
He says BC Tomorrow’s software will allow students to begin to understand how to apply a systems approach.
BC Tomorrow is using a template for their software based on a similar program in Alberta.
Ramsay recently visited a Grade 4 classroom in that province where Alberta Tomorrow is being taught and is excited by the concepts the students not only grasped but were able to share succinctly.
He noted the concepts introduced at the Grade 11-12 level are far more complex than what the Grade 4 students get. But, one of the benefits is that the younger students begin immediately acquiring critical-thinking skills and grasp the systems approach.
“BC Tomorrow fits with an evolving education system, examining sustainability within watersheds,” said Ramsay. “It helps students develop deeper understanding that examines the interaction of humans and natural systems, explores multiple approaches to land use and incorporates aboriginal traditional knowledge.”
Okanagan Shuswap Liberal Party candidate Cindy Derkaz was in the audience last Tuesday.
“I thought the presentation was terrific; it opens a whole new realm of co-operation and collaboration in making decisions about our communities,” she said. “It makes me wonder if we had all been exposed to this way of thinking, would we have had fewer divisive issues over the last four decades (in Salmon Arm).”
Derkaz was impressed the critical thinking skills and systems approach to learning are being brought to the schools.
“And I liked the older kids teaching the younger; it’s very positive,” she said, expressing concern for youth disengagement she has seen, particularly in voting.
Also in attendance, and very supportive, was Mayor Nancy Cooper.
“One of the things I was very interested in was teaching kids about cause and effect,” she said. “There’s a lot more variables. What are we really doing… we can look at this and say, if we cut all the trees, or if we drain all the watersheds, what’s going to happen? It’s relevant and exciting for the future.”
Both women had high praise for Dan MacQuarrie who sponsored the event presented by Okanagan College through his MacQuarrie Institute lecture series.