Wednesday 18 July 2018

Conserving Curiosity: Project Webfoot Wrap-up 2018

This is a guest blog from Duck’s Unlimited Canada (DUC) summer student Sarah Wilkins. Sarah is a 3rd year Biology student in the Faculty of Science at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. She loves hiking, camping and botany. Follow her instagram @newfoundlandroots for beautiful photos of native Newfoundland wildflowers. This is Sarah's second summer with Ducks Unlimited Canada.

Tuesday, June 26th was a good day weather-wise if you were a duck. Even though the school year was coming to an end in three days, it was four degrees outside and the rain had been falling heavily since the day before. If you weren’t a duck, it was the type of weather that doesn’t entice you to explore outdoors. However, for Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and SAM Staff it was a great day to shovel up a peat core and bring the outside in for the grade 5 and 6 students at Brookside Intermediate.
A peat core from Brookside Intermediate Bog
Brookside students squeezing peat!

Brookside Intermediate is located in the SAM member community of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s , and it was the final school that we visited wrapping up two months of wetland field trips and presentations to grades 4’s, 5’s, and 6’s across the province. Although the weather was gloomy, encouraging the students to dig their hands into the chunk of peat and squeeze the water out of a handful of peat moss, gave the room a cheerful atmosphere.

It’s always an amazing experience to deliver environmental education to the students of SAM member communities. They learn the reasons why conserving wetlands and the Boreal Forest are so important and they’re always interested in what they can do to help protect the environment. When a community takes the step to sign a municipal habitat stewardship agreement, it ensures that the next generation will have a healthy environment to enjoy and we can confidently tell students that their community is taking steps to conserve, enhance and restore Newfoundland and Labrador's wildlife habitat!
Random Island Academy critter dipping in Clarenville, June 2018 

Prior to our presentation at Brookside Intermediate, DUC and SAM staff delivered Project Webfoot field trips to four SAM member communities: Stephenville Crossing, Springdale, Lewisporte, and Hawke’s Bay . In addition, Project Webfoot was delivered to other SAM communities by partner organizations including: Happy Valley - Goose Bay (thanks to Healthy Waters Labrador, GrandFalls - Windsor (thanks to Corduroy Brook Enhancement Association), St.John's (thanks to the Fluvarium) and Indian Bay (thanks to the staff at the Indian Bay Ecosystem Corporation).

Project Webfoot is Ducks Unlimited Canada’s elementary school program where students explore local wetlands and discover what slithers, swims, hops, and flies in their backyard! The program is directly linked to grades 4 to 6 curriculum and offers students a chance to apply the material they’ve learned in the classroom to a real-world setting.
American black ducks at Corner Brook Marsh

During the field trip, students participate in games that teach them what a wetland is, how to identify the different types of wetlands in Newfoundland & Labrador, and the many values and ecosystem services wetlands offer people, wildlife, and the environment. Students are also advised on how to properly use binoculars, they search for aquatic invertebrates, and have the freedom to make their own discoveries and observations.

Children are natural born scientists. As infants, their first words are to help them identify the people and things in the world around them and later in childhood their inquisitive nature leads them to touch, smell, and observe things they aren’t familiar with. These childhood explorations are important for how we make predictions in the future and adjust our reactions to the environment.

So, if children are natural scientists then why are some kids not interested in science? Why do they lose their innate curiosity as they get older?
Learning how to bird-watch with some soon to be 'Bird-Nerds' at Corner Brook Marsh, June 2018
Apparently, the key is how we teach science. A study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) wanted to look at how teaching affects exploration and discovery and did so by giving 4-year-olds a new toy. The new toy had four tubes attached to it that each did something different. One group of students were presented with the toy by a scientist who claimed she had found the toy on the ground and acted very surprised when she pulled one tube and the toy made a squeaking sound. 

A second group of students were presented with the toy by the same scientist who informed them that she had just gotten a new toy and wanted to show them how it worked and deliberately made it squeak. When both groups of kids were given the toy to play with, they all repeated the squeaking action they had observed but the second group of kids quickly became bored of the toy and put it aside. In contrast, the first group of kids continued to play with it long after the second group had stopped and discovered the hidden functions of the other tubes.

Kids lose their sense of exploration when we teach them facts of what we already know instead of the process and importance of their discovery. The secret to engaging kids in science is to take advantage of their natural inquisitiveness and instead of getting caught up in the “what”, we should focus on the “why” and “how”.
Critter dipping for macro invertebrates! June 2018

Dragonfly nymphs from Corner Brook Marsh, June 2018

Their moments of discovery are the best part of my job! Whether the students are yelling out to you because they’ve just caught a huge dragonfly nymph or the whole class is falling completely silent because they’ve just caught sight of a bird, close encounters with nature leave lifelong impressions on children. These moments open the door to a lifetime of curiosity, a desire to learn, and compassion for the natural world around us.

As adults, we are gatekeepers to the natural world and we often try to over protect children instead of  building their connection to the environment. This connection is even more important in our world of social media, tablets, and video games. I entered the field of conservation biology because I wanted to share my passion for nature that I learned as a child with future generations.

By protecting habitat through Municipal Habitat Stewardship Agreements we can ensure that future generations have the same species and landscapes that are part of our lives and we leave them the most important legacy: the opportunity to find wonder and conserve curiosity.

SAM Newsletter #16 Spring 2018

A BIG thank you to the Town of Stephenville Crossing for hosting this years AGM! Pictured above (L to R) Yvonne Young, Town of Stephenville Crossing Clerk Manager and Lisa Lucas, Mayor Town of Stephenville Crossing.

SAM Spring AGM: Connecting Municipalities to Stewardship!   

The SAM Spring AGM was held on May 25 - 26, 2018 in Stephenville Crossing. All 41 SAM members were invited to send a councillor, a member of staff or a interested resident to the AGM. The SAM Meetings are a time for members to come together to share their stewardship successes and challenges over the past year. They also give members a chance to network and partner on environmental stewardship projects!

The AGM opened on Friday night with a Pub Trivia Night hosted by SAM Staff  with food provided by the Town of Stephenville Crossing, held in the Stephenville Crossing Firehall. Trivia contestants were quizzed on their knowledge of municipal mottos, NL outdoor activities, and if they were "Smarter than a Project Webfooter" (Project Webfooters are grade 4 students that participate in wetland field trips). 
Pictured left: Friday Pub Night Trivia with SAM Trivia Teams!
Pictured right: The Prairie, a restored wetland in the heart of Stephenville Crossing, on May 24th, 2018
On Saturday Morning participants met for breakfast provided by The Town of Stephenville Crossing. It was a great time to chat over coffee before the work began! Our newly formed SAM Executive opened the meeting with the Community Stewardship reports. Each SAM member is invited to deliver a report of their stewardship activities and challenges over the past year. It was great to hear about all the activities happening around the province such as working toward wetland policies, planning for summer events, and the installation of new interpretative signage.

SAM Members can find inspiration for stewardship activities on the SAM website under the resources tab!

After lunch, which was provided by The Town of Stephenville Crossing, we heard from SAM Staff and their future work plan for the upcoming year, from Ducks Unlimited and their work in the province, and from Kathleen Blanchard with Intervale Associates and their work with Piping Plover and other endangered shore birds.

The day ended with a guided tour for participants from a local birder and naturalist Terry Downey. Participants bird watched at the St. Georges River Estuary Management Unit, and at The Prairie, a restored wetland in the heart of Stephenville Crossing. 
Bird Watching in Stephenville Crossing!
Pictured left: St. Georges River Estuary, Right:Terry Downey, Candace Austin Town of Steady Brook, and Jeff Lawlor Town of Portugal Cove St. Phillip's
The AGM came to a close with the SAM networking dinner on Saturday night. SAM executive thanked Stephenville Crossing for hosting this years AGM and providing such warm hospitality with a dragonfly print by Graham Blair Woodcuts. Also, The Town of Gander was presented with a gift to commemorate the 25th anniversary of signing their stewardship agreement with SAM and the Province. Way to go Gander! 
Thank you for Hosting the SAM AGM Stephenville Crossing! Pictured left is SAM Secretary, Pat Woodford, presenting a thank you gift to the Town of Stephenville Crossing Councillor  Michael Batt.
For more information about SAM's business meetings check out and keep up with all of SAM's activities on our Facebook or follow us on Twitter @SAM_Stewardship! 

SAM Network News & Updates

  • The Fall SAM Meeting to be held in Labrador City September 21- 22!Thank you to the Town of Labrador City for offering to Host the Fall SAM Meeting 2018. SAM Members, watch for your "Save the Date" in your towns email! Book your flight and accommodations early to save and avoid disappointment
  • Looking for some inspiration for your next municipal event? Check out the new "Eco-Calendar" on the SAM Website! If you have a submission of your next environmental stewardship event that you would like on the calendar email
  • Challenges finding funding for your next stewardship project? Use the SAM funding page as your guide! With over 30 links to funding and grants for municipalities, we are always updating the page with current deadlines and contact information.
  • Check out the latest installment of the SAM Climate Change Blog Series "Keeping it Clean: Wetlands Purifying Water!"
An American Wigeon in Tamarack Gully, Labrador City.
Image submitted by Fabian Benoit, Councillor Labrador City, NL

If you have any suggestions for content or image submissions contact

Sackville, The Town that Waterfowl Built: Tourism for the Birds! 
Laura King, SAM Conservation Biologist

I recently returned from the town of Sackville New Brunswick where I was invited to speak about SAM at the Atlantic Society of Fish and Wildlife Biologists spring meeting. The SAM organizational method received excellent feedback! After the talk, participants were curious about how the laws in Newfoundland and Labrador work, what our agreements are like, how we integrate social sciences into our programs, and more!

There were many excellent presentations during the day that will help inspire furture partnerships and SAM work. What I also enjoyed was seeing how the Town of Sackville has promoted itself as a bird and wildlife destination.
The number one attraction in the town is the Sackville Waterfowl Park  which is a completely free trail and boardwalk system that surrounds a series of ponds. The ponds were created in 1988 to make bird habitat, but their effect on tourism is fantastic as well!

The ponds are full of life, with ducks and other waterbirds everywhere. Forest birds flit around you as you walk the trails. You can borrow binoculars at the spacious interpretive centre, which also has a craft shop connecting local artisans to the tourist market. They have great interpretive signage and produce a free bird brochure just for Sackville. They also promote guided tours including a birdwatching package  that includes two guided bird tours, lunch and dinner, and accommodations. There's also a $12 family Wetlands Adventure with snacks and an interpreter!

The Town Sackville has bird-themed restaurants and cafes, bird crosswalks, bird art everywhere, and even bird-related poetry. Even the pub is called Ducky's!
No doubt this is something that takes a long time for a municipality to develop, but Sackville provides a lot of ideas that could be applied to your town to welcome more tourists, and maybe even bird tourists!

SAM is here to help - if you too want to become a "town that waterfowl built" we can help with your nature tourism projects, just email 
Stewardship Spotlight - Gander: 25 Years of Stewardship
In 1993 The Town of Gander became one of the first Municipalities to protect habitat within their boundaries by signing a Habitat Stewardship Agreement.
Since then Gander has taken stewardship seriously and has hosted many public outreach events! Such as a youth geocaching event in 2011 held at Thomas Howe Demonstration Forest,
and creating walking trails, boardwalks and interpretation around Cobb's Pond.
Just this past October, The Town of Gander partnered with Ducks Unlimited and SAM to host a Nestbox Building Workshop with Gander Elementary! 
These events and activities help to bring together the community for a common cause... Protecting Habitat! 
Gander has also provided two SAM Presidents along with many other SAM executive over the years. Former Mayor of Gander, Claude Elliot, is a strong supporter of SAM and over the past 25 years has been involved with many of the stewardship initiatives.
Congratulations Gander on 25 Years of Stewardship, lets keep it going for another 25!
Geocaching 101: Starting your outdoor treasure hunt!
Geocaching is a technological twist on an outdoor treasure hunt! It has become increasing popular, and SAM has over 30 Geocaches for you to find with the profile nameEHJV_Stewardship! 

Here are 5 Tips and Tricks for a successful hunt!
1) Get your equipment ready:You can use either a handheld GPS or a smartphone. The Geocaching App is very user friendly and free! You might also want to use Google Maps which is also free to install. 
2) Sign up for the free account:  once you have downloaded the free app on your smartphone, create a free basic account using your email address.
3) Search for a Cache: In the App you can click on the "Map"and this will allow you to see all Caches around you! There are several different types of Caches that will appear in different colors.
4)  Navigate to the Cache: Once you have selected the cache you want to find, select it on the app by using the "Start"button.
5)  Leave your Treasure: When you find the cache you can open it and see what is inside! If there is a logbook you can sign it and there may even be a toy prize. If you take a prize remember to leave a prize for the next treasure hunter!
Log your cache by clicking  the "Stop"button, you can then select the cache and reveal its details!
Start planning your next outdoor treasure hunt today! 
SAM Spring Photos: A Stewardship Photo Essay! 

SAM Staff have been working with municipalities and Eastern Habitat Joint Venture partners over the past few months.

Check out the photos for some Stewardship inspiration!
Crabb's River Restoration with EHJV partners NCCand DUC
Trail breaking in Cooks Marsh with DUC
Wetland Field Trips with DUC
Wetland Clean up in Deer Lake with Elwood Elementary
SAM Bird watching in Stephenville Crossing
If you have a photo  or a story you would like to submit for the SAM newsletter email
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