- learn about the habitat requirements of living things, with emphasis on the value of healthy shorelines to wildlife and people and the ways in which human activities can help or harm these habitats;
- develop positive attitudes towards wildlife and habitat and become motivated to ensure their conservation;
- assess the health of a shoreline and identify ways to conserve it, while learning how to distinguish between pristine shorelines and ones that have been damaged by human activities;
- collect data and organize information relating to habitat, then create an action plan to enhance a shoreline; and
- discover how to facilitate cooperation between the school and community.
Shorelines: Where Land Interfaces with Water
Remember the magical allure of shorelines? The marvel of a giant snapping turtle basking on a stream bank; the chatter of songbirds in a lakeside wood; the splash of smallmouth bass breaking the water’s surface; the spectacle of bats at twilight alongside a peaceful river; or the discovery of sea stars, hermit crabs, and huge strands of kelp on a sandy ocean coast?
- Shorelines are dynamic ecosystems. The edges of our lakes, wetlands, rivers, and estuaries (called riparian areas), as well as ocean shores, are critical to both terrestrial and aquatic species. Here, the building blocks of natural communities — sun, soil, water, air, plants, and animals — interact with each other in an intricate web of life.
- Well-vegetated shorelines serve as buffer strips, protecting banks from erosion, safeguarding water quality, cooling streams, and providing some of the world’s most productive wildlife habitat. Of course, these green zones also contribute beauty to the landscape.
- We’ve taken these fragile ecosystems for granted — clear-cutting stream banks, building communities and industries in flood zones, paving over vast marshes, damming and diverting waterways, and growing crops and grazing cattle to the water’s edge — all the while destroying untold hectares of wildlife habitat and depriving lakes, rivers, and sea coasts of their ability to cleanse themselves.
- Today, we’re becoming aware that shorelines are sensitive areas with tremendous value, that they need special care. Fortunately, most shoreline degradation can be reversed. Among the many habitat strategies outlined in this kit are projects to restore buffer zones, to adopt urban or rural shorelines, to accommodate songbirds, amphibians, and waterfowl, and to conserve and enhance ocean coasts.
- Assign the resource sheet "Ribbons of Life" to students as homework or as a classroom reading activity.
- Discuss, on the basis of the reading assignment, the habitat requirements of living things, the importance of healthy shorelines for wildlife, how human activities help or harm these habitats, and the need for shoreline rehabilitation strategies.
- Refer to the student resource sheet "Plan Your Project" for a six-step model of shoreline habitat stewardship. Using data collected during a field trip and relying on additional research of your ecological area, discuss possible rehabilitation strategies with your students. After forming a vision of what you can do to restore the shoreline and choosing habitat projects from this website, draw up a conservation action plan.
- We strongly advise that, before starting habitat projects, you and your students visit a shoreline. The resource sheet entitled "Get out in the Field" offers suggestions on how to make the most of your field trip, including methods of assessing habitat health and of mapping the shoreline area. The "Shoreline Habitat Report Card" is a valuable tool for collecting data based on observations made during the field trip.
- Collaborate with communities. Students can ensure the success of their projects by:
- making the most of the people and resources in their schools and communities;
- trumpeting their vision of the conservation benefits they can achieve;
- recruiting parent and community volunteers;
- requesting expert volunteer help plus support from local businesses, nurseries, horticultural clubs, civic organizations, senior’s groups, wildlife agencies and organizations, and naturalist groups; and
- creating project teams built on partnerships and shared goals of younger and older students, teachers and parents, and schools and communities.
To make your unit on shoreline habitat more challenging, encourage students to undertake the following activities:
- Write a state of the shoreline report. Students analyse their fieldwork results and determine if problems were solved on their adopted shoreline. Brainstorm ideas for future improvement. Students discuss new projects or the next phase of their wildlife habitat efforts.
- Do a research project. Learn about the impact of a particular shoreline problem, such as invasive plant species; determine if local developers take shoreline habitat into account when building highways, subdivisions, and other developments; find out if a species at risk inhabits a nearby shoreline.
- Invite a speaker. Ask someone in a wildlife-related job, such as a biologist or conservation officer, to address your group about a shoreline ecosystem or shoreline species. Students prepare questions in advance.
- Write a poem, song, or story. Relate a fish’s-eye view of pollution or an owl’s-eye view of deforestation; or brainstorm “shoreline words,” focusing on themes like biodiversity, then use the vocabulary in poems, songs, or stories. Hold a shoreline poster contest. Each poster could make a statement about the value of shorelines to living things.
To determine if learning outcomes have been met, students can do the following exercises:
- Design the ideal shoreline. Create a mural or three-dimensional model of a shoreline, including a variety of interdependent species and people, plus sun, soil, water, and air, to illustrate the workings of a healthy ecosystem.
- Put on a role play. Take on the roles of various shoreline species, presenting their case to a polluter, land developer, farmer, or poacher.
- Write an essay or give a speech. Discuss why shorelines are among the world’s most productive ecosystems, the importance of a healthy buffer zone, or five reasons why these habitats are critical to wildlife and humans.
- Name that alien. Identify five species that are native and five that are non-native to Canada’s shorelines. Describe the impacts of these invasive species on shoreline ecosystems.
- Encourage youngsters to explore problems to be solved, become “experts” on shoreline habitat, devise a wildlife action plan, and choose projects.
- Collaborate with students in setting goals and working towards them. Suggest that there are no quick fixes to improving wildlife habitat; some of the most worthwhile projects take years to show benefits.
- Ensure the longevity of your project by involving several grade levels and working in league with community groups.
- Obtain permission from a landowner or your municipality and check with area bylaws inspectors before planting or building on shorelines.
- Get approval from parents before visiting a shoreline.
- At project sites, avoid conflict and misunderstanding by posting weatherproof signs that inform passersby of the objectives of your Habitat 2020 efforts.
- Use plants, trees, and shrubs native to your ecological area.
Play it Safe
- Take extra care when working on shorelines or in wooded areas.
- Recruit older students, parents, or community volunteers to maximize safety.
- Remember, it’s safest to work in small groups.
- Bring along a first-aid kit, sunblock, and insect repellent on outings.
- See that students wear appropriate clothing and footwear.
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