It was an eye-opening day of fieldwork for dozens of Lethbridge College biology students in the General Arts and Science program, who gathered in the river valley to not only clean up trash but to document every single piece of litter they recovered.
Their involvement in the Helen Schuler Nature Centre’s Coulee Cleanup was part of a class assignment called the Stewardship Project. Students were asked to do preliminary work by watching videos and reading prepared materials supplied by the nature centre, participate in the cleanup and then submit a written paper on the experience.
On March 16, more than 90 students enrolled in Biology 0020 and 1151 - Environmental Issues, covered eight different cleanup zones. While they made a positive impact on the environment, they also gained valuable insight into the types of garbage ending up in the coulees – a lot of disposable masks and paper and plastic products. Students say this data collection helped them better understand the problem of litter in the coulees.
Participants also noted a sense of accomplishment after their day of volunteering, with many reporting a visible difference in the cleanliness of their assigned coulee zone. Others said they enjoyed a day outdoors and were happy to take part in a casual group activity with classmates, especially since COVID restrictions affected several events this year.
With such positive individual takeaways, participation in Coulee Cleanup among Lethbridge College biology students is likely to continue. “In this course we have three major assignments and students must choose any two of the three to complete,” says instructor Kelly Oikawa. “This was by far the most popular and because it covers a number of course and program outcomes, and is good for the city and environment, we’re planning to take part again.”
Coulee Cleanup began in 2008 as a volunteer conservation project coordinated by the Helen Schuler Nature Centre. It aims to preserve and protect the environment of the Lethbridge river valley by removing garbage and debris from natural areas.
The Lethbridge College Students’ Association has also organized a coulee cleanup as the campus community continues to do its part to help beautify the local landscape. Those interested in participating are invited to meet volunteers at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 23 at Fort Whoop-Up.
To learn more about the General Arts and Science program, visit the Lethbridge College website.