Mimico Creek Water Watchers
In the fall, as part of our Grade 8 Water unit, we worked with a community group called EcoSpark to conduct a stream study in our local creek, the Mimico Creek in Mississauga, Ontario. During our stream study, we collected, sampled, and analyzed the types of water bugs (BMIs) in the water and did different water chemistry tests. Doing these tests revealed that only the most tolerant bugs could survive in our creek because it is impaired by pollution from the local industries, tons of garbage/litter, and other pollutants like salt/lawn care products from our busy suburban neighbourhood.
It became our vision to work towards making the Mimico Creek a cleaner and more biodiverse ecosystem. We realized that while we could help clean up the creek, that it would only be sustainable and long-lasting if we helped teach our community to care more about it too. As a class, we decided that teaching kids in our community about the creek might be a fun and impactful way to spread the word… kids have a lot of influence over their parents, right? We decided an “Action Day” for young people could help them get thinking, to teaching them about what is happening in their community, and show them that our creek needs their help!
Our research team identified a few key issues that are problems for Mimico Creek: driveway salt and lawn care products, invasive species, urbanization, and overdevelopment (and under-regulation) of industries in our area. As the newly formed “Mimico Creek Water Watchers”, we wanted to tackle as many of these issues as we could!
Throughout the planning of this project, we had different teams working together on different goals to make this project successful. We had an event planning team, a community partner/outreach team, a political action team, a filmmaking team, and a research team. The community partner team had to figure out ways to communicate with different organizations who knew about water and ask them to get their help to do our project. The event planning team figured out fun and educational activities to do to teach local grade 5s about water. The research team had to dig deep into issues to help us all understand some of the biggest problems and causes of pollution in our creek. Finally, the filmmakers recorded our work for our class documentary project we submitted to the Water Docs at School project with Learning for a Sustainable Future. Everyone in our class had multiple responsibilities- both for the Action Day and for our film.
After communicating with a few possible organizations that could help us do our project, we able to connect with our local conservation authority the TRCA (Toronto and Region Conservation Authority). During a video call we asked questions about the problems with the creek, if we could have their help with planting the right kinds of native plants, etc. It was great, because they offered to come and present with us as well as providing some helpful resources.
Our Mimico Creek Water Action Days (at Lancaster PS and Ridgewood PS in Mississauga) brought us together with 5 different grade 5 classes. We planned 6 different activities to help the students learn and TAKE ACTION for our creek. Although we had hoped to do these activities at the creek, COVID made that a little tricky. No matter- we worked around the problems and modified our plan to work at their schools. Station 1 was a seed ball making station to teach the kids about native and invasive species. They got to make a few small seed balls to toss onto the creeksides when they go there with their families. Station 2 was a letter writing centre where students learned who can help clean up the creek and take action for the water. They wrote letters/postcards to MPs, MPPs, and local city councillors who can actually make changes happen. Station 3 was a button making centre. Students could write and draw wearable messages to inspire everyone to care for the creek. Station 4 was a “Creek of Dreams” centre, where students learned about native fish species that used to be in our creek and how if we work hard together, they can actually come back. They painted watercolour fish to put up on a bulletin board with information that their whole school could see later. Station 5 was a game station where fun water facts and running around combined. Finally, the TRCA ran our Station 6 which taught kids about microplastics through some hands on activities. After all the activities wrapped up, we celebrated our amazing learning together with- of course, WATERmelon!
On another day, students in our class went and did a cleanup at Mimico Creek. The amount of litter we found was heart-breaking. Within only 30-45 minutes of doing the cleanup at the creek we were able to fill more than three garbage bags with so much junk. We found so many things inside of our creek including plastic wrappers, masks, straws , Tim Hortons plastic cups , plastic bags, soda cans , water bottles, etc. Seeing so much litter inside of our creek made us think of questions like “do people actually know that when they litter around the community center, most of the litter ends up going into the creek?” and “Why are people dumping their food in and near the creek?” We clearly have more work to do!
Reflection & Celebration
As a class, we tried hard to teach kids in our community the importance of protecting our water, especially in our creek. We showed them how important it is for people their age to use their voice to share what they feel should happen with people in power. Even though getting everything together was a bit hard because of our short timeframe, we still managed to involve over 125 kids from 3 different schools (including us!) in REAL action to care for our beautiful creek. Before our events, a lot of the kids didn’t know what Mimico Creek was, where it was located, how the water quality there was, or any other general information about the creek. After our Mimico Creek Water Watchers Action Day event, students learned how to reduce their plastic use (and prevent microplastics in our water), what native and invasive species are (and made seed balls to improve biodiversity of our creek banks!), how to be active citizens (by writing letters to lawmakers and wearing buttons!), that taking action can bring back fish like rainbow trout to our neighbourhood (through discussions at our watercolour painting station), and that our creek is important in general!
Our own creek cleanup surely made a difference as we pulled a literal shopping cart of plastics, glass, and other waste (including the cart itself) from just a short 50m section of the creek near our school. We are hoping to go back and continue our work later in the year.
Hopefully now that our project (and school year) are wrapping up, we can invite our Grade 5 friends to view our Water Docs film about the Mimico Creek together at a “Virtual Viewing Party” and celebrate this new learning, hard work, and care for our creek together!