Posted by: jwhiff | January 27, 2011

The Evolution of the Salt Marsh Project

Well, I believe that we have experienced some important movement on the project front this week.  For this, I can thank Ruth Foster and Ron Ydenberg.

A couple of weeks back, I introduced the alleged problem of the geese over-feeding on the marsh grasses to my students.  I also related the proposed solution to them:  culling the geese.  As expected, my students had very mixed views on this solution.  Many students felt there was no other way.  Those who didn’t like the idea of it had very limited ideas for alternative solutions.  One student, however, thought some sort of a scarecrow in the shape of a goose predator might be worth considering.  She was persistent in her thinking and wrote up a small proposal for the idea the next day.

Now, I like this kind of initiative.  I wasn’t sure that we could actually try it, but I wanted to figure out some way that I could encourage her to figure out the viability of the idea.

That’s where our experts come in.  Came in, actually.  Ruth came in Monday after school and Ron came in for a class visit today.

Ruth sat with my student after school and helped her to organize realistic steps in her project, which included photographing the inlet, gathering research on predators, and visiting our local museum for information on how the salt marsh has changed.  She wasn’t entirely sure it was realistic to try the scarecrow idea, although forwarded it to Rod MacVicar and Rob Butler to see what they thought.

Their responses were encouraging and pretty exciting.  At this point, my student and her project partner feel that the idea has merit and are excitedly detailing a list of work they need to accomplish.  So, I have one student project started!

Then Ron Ydenberg came in for a visit.  Now, this is the first time he has met my class, so part of our mission was to simply get to know him.  After fielding several questions on birds and a few about the nature of his work, we got into the issue of the salt marsh.  He was more than a little surprised that the vocal majority suggested that the “problem geese” needed to be killed and set about challenging that notion.  I was dismayed at first that the students opposed to the idea sat and said nothing.  I didn’t want him to think that I told my students that the geese were a problem and needed to be killed!  I shy away from telling my student what to think.  I think that it is important that they have a chance to draw conclusions based on real experience and thoughtful reflection.   Anyway, I bit my tongue and let the lesson unfold.

Ron directed their thinking to humans and human impact.  What else might be causing the disappearance of the salt marshes?  I was quite curious myself!  My thoughts immediately settle on human development of shoreline areas.  However, I hadn’t thought of a mud connection that Ron helped us make.  On the Fraser River delta, dykes were erected to control the flow of water to aid shipping and (I’m guessing) to control flooding as well.  After the dykes went in, they effectively kept the mud transported by the Fraser River from being deposited on the salt marshes.  Thus, the marshes were disappearing because they weren’t being nourished by mud.

So…what relevancy does this have for us in Port Moody?  Unfortunately, it was me who wondered aloud about the possibility that the disappearance of our salt marsh might have to do with the creeks that feed the mudflats in Port Moody.  I remembered how high the water of Noon’s Creek was on our last visit and also that we had noticed erosion on the banks flanking the creeks where marsh grass grows. I would have liked the students to have been making these kinds of connections, but ah well!  It gives us a new, interesting possibility to explore.

My next steps are now to bring more keen students into the fold.  We are in the middle of a read whodunnit…and we are going to be doing some real investigative science here.


  1. Really cool story! And so inspiring to here fresh ideas from young minds 🙂

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