Over the course of Semester One, students from five Science classes at Riverside explored a new kind of Science education. The students, ranging from grade nine to eleven, regularly ventured outside and explored the diverse ecosystem around the school. With the help of their teachers and SFU graduate students, they conducted various water tests in the Coquitlam River and the Oxbow Lake (the swamp next to the school), collected and studied organisms, and even pulled on some hip waders and dove right in to the lake itself.

In short, they became scientists.

The project began as a way to potentially utilize resources from SET-BC, a special education program based in Vancouver that focuses on integrating technology into education. SET-BC had resources up for grabs for schools who submitted proposals for projects that centered around the use of technology in the classroom – something Riverside has been doing since 2007. Riverside librarian, Sue Henderson, who first learned about the SET-BC opportunity, knew that Riverside students have participated in many interactive and hands-on learning initiatives already, particularly in science classes. The theme of the environment and the ecosystem surround the school, however, had barely been explored to its full potential.

And thus began the theme of “Super Natural Riverside”, based on the “Super Natural BC” informational videos about the ecology of British Columbia. Teachers Bree Mireau, Brenda Yorke, Melissa Jackson, and Erica McArthur, with their expertise and passion in science education and exploring the environment around us, worked with Henderson to brainstorm and develop the project as the students know today. Students would learn how to be field scientists and put together videos (much like the Super Natural BC videos) to educate the public on something that they were passionate about in the environment.

“Kids really embraced their topics – they’re as excited and passionate as our own backyard in the same way that kids have been passionate about some far-away place that they’re worried about,” said Henderson. “To see that level of passion and excitement has been really, as person in the community, exciting. These kids are going to go forward and do amazing things when I’m old. It’s been really amazing to see that passion and excitement in them about our little backyard.”

Nighina Rahimi, a student in Mireau’s Science 10 Honours class, did her project on the disappearance of bees, a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.

“We wanted to know how the decline of the bee population affected our environment and economy, and discovered that not really anybody knows exactly why it’s happening. We wanted to do something about it. If we can share to the community that by doing a couple of things to help the local bee population we can prevent a lot of negative impacts,” said Rahimi. “It was much more interesting to actually create something to help your society, your environment and actually have an impact on it.”

The SuperNatural Riverside project will continue next semester in McArthur’s Outdoor Ed class and Jackson’s Science 9 classes.