Science is a subject best learned by doing.
This is the philosophy of Salmon Arm Secondary science teacher Dave Ramsay, who has won School District #83 board approval for a new environmental science course that will focus on the Shuswap Watershed.
The eight-credit course provides four credits each in Environmental Science 11 and Civics 11 and is designed to engage students in the science using a hands-on approach.
“We’re going to teach the science, but use the Shuswap as our text book, and the kids will be involved in all sorts of projects,” said the enthusiastic teacher two days after the board approved his pitch for the new course at the May board meeting.
And while students are discovering the science of the local watershed with a focus on sustainability, they will also learn about the structure of local government and community action and involvement from socials teacher Graham Gomme.
“This is such a great fit – not only are they learning about science and civics, they’re learning that it’s messy and complex,” Ramsay says. “It’s not like a text book: there are no answers, there’s interaction between big systems, challenges they’re not gonna know about until they get there.”
Having won board approval, Ramsay says he’ll be spending time and money getting set up for introduction of the course in September.
Funding for some of the equipment Ramsay needs will come from a $5,000 grant received from RBC last year.
When Wendy Gaudet, manager of client care at the local branch, handed over the cheque last fall, she said the proposal to make students (and the community) aware of the critical importance of water in general and the watershed in particular, was a perfect fit with the parameters set by RBC’s Blue Water Project Community Action Grant program.
Ramsay designed the course from a major curriculum project he created as part of his masters program in leadership and administration.
“I designed it in pieces to share (with other teachers) and as a whole course,” he said when RBC made their donation last fall, noting his work integrated some of the previous work accomplished by former teacher and member of the Kingfisher Interpretive Centre Kim Fulton.
“This is taking it to the next step, and every time I do a presentation on it I get the same response – excitement,” says Ramsay, who has been responsible for turning several of his former students onto the joys of science.
“I’ve got lots of students that have gone on to do geology, earth science, chemistry,” he says. “One was inspired to get a masters in resource management and is helping design the course. Another went on to geology and another is going on to earth and environmental science.”
Ramsay is thrilled the students will have the opportunity to see, feel and interact with the environment and to work outside and in the lab.
He believes the work will lead to more understanding of how and where damage is being done to the watershed and says the students will be interacting with the community and hopefully educating the general public – with good results.
“A well-educated community is educated in its own business,” says Ramsay. “We don’t know the specific business of Salmon Arm but we do know the lake and watershed is a big part of it, so we want to be educated. Education has a big role here and it should benefit our society.”
Passionate about science and the success of his students, an enthusiastic Ramsay says he’ll be in and out of the school all summer to make sure all is ready. He hopes the course will appeal to many students.
“It really fires me up seeing the kids getting hooked on science.”