This page includes information about the Hilliardton Marsh Education program.
The Hilliardton Marsh Research and Education Centre is committed to providing quality educational programming for all, schools in the district and beyond. Students can have access to the bird banding lab on Monday-Friday of the school year. Our program is best suited for students from grades 4-8, although many secondary teachers find the experience benificial to their art, geography, and science curriculums
Why include a Marsh visit in your plans?
The three goals outlined in The Ontario Curriculum: Science and Technology (2007) are as follows:
1. to relate science and technology to society and the environment
2. to develop the skills, strategies, and habits of mind required for scientific inquiry and technological
3. to understand the basic concepts of science and technology
All three of these goals, as well as many of the Overall and Specific Expectations developed from them, can be met through the various aspects of a marsh visit. Further, there is a large, and perhaps growing, disconnect between humans and the natural world, causing problems that have come to be known as Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD). The term was coined by author Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods in order to explain how our societal alienation from nature is affecting today's children. A lack of routine contact with nature may result in the symptoms of NDD, which include attention problems, obesity, anxiety, and depression, and may lead to stunted academic and developmental growth. A visit to the marsh may be a step in the direction of alleviating NDD for many of the children in our care.
What Specific Expectations will a Marsh visit cover?
HMREC has programming with Specific Expectations built in. If you are a teacher
with interest or experience in Environmental Studies, Ecology, Biology, or any other area where you see a
fit, and would like to help furthar develop this programming, please contact our volunteer coordinator. While each visiting group is different, and every teacher will have his/her own goals for the visit, following are some of the Curriculum topics with expectations that can be met through a marsh visit:
Grade 4 Understanding Life Systems - Habitats and Communities
Grade 6 Understanding Life Systems - Biodiversity
Grade 7 Understanding Life Systems - Interactions in the Environment
How do I book a Marsh visit?
For the first time we are happy to announce that we will be offering programing for all school boards for both spring and fall. If you feel a Marsh visit will meet your needs in any of the areas above, or in other curriculum-related ways, follow these steps:
1. Contact us via this website to coordinate a date for your visit and we will send you our "School Group Package". Remember to consider other school events, such as EQAO, track meets, etc.
2. Discuss your plans with your school principal, and get oral approval.
3. Follow established procedures for a Field Trip (submit Field Trip form).
4. Book your transportation.
5. Send permission letters home. Seek out and enlist adult volunteers to help out (especially with younger students).
How do I prepare for a Marsh visit?
You, the teacher, are ultimately responsible for the safety of your class during the field trip. Please discuss the importance of health and safety issues with your class prior to the outing. A wetland necessarily includes water, and anytime children (or adults for that matter) are near water, extra vigilance and sensible behaviour are required.
Staying together as a group and listening carefully to instructions make the visit safer and more fun for all. Use any equipment safely and responsibly, and be sure to wash hands before eating or after handling birds.
Remind the students that we must also consider the health and safety of the birds and other wildlife. Loud and boisterous behaviour, especially in the vicinity of the mist nets, can frighten the birds or potentially damage habitat. Explain that bugs are seldom bothersome at the marsh, and that students who use bug spray will not be permitted to touch birds. All living specimens must be treated with respect and released safely. Make sure that students understand the importance of the saying, “Take nothing but photographs; leave nothing but footprints.”
In order to help students enjoy their visit, the following checklist can be sent home prior to the visit:
Rubber boots (fashion doesn’t matter in a wetland)
Old clothing (you will get muddy!)
Suitable clothing (Northern Ontario is a place of weather extremes; often in the same day)
Dry socks and shoes to change into (you will appreciate these at the end of the day)
Water bottle (field work makes you thirsty)
Hat and/or sun screen
Snacks and Lunch (A barbecue is available at the teacher’s discretion, and on some visits, a campfire may
be an option)
Insect repellent (as explained above, the bugs are seldom a nuisance at the marsh. If a student insists, tell them they should not apply it until they need it. They probably won’t, and if they do, they won’t be permitted to handle birds. To prevent attracting bugs, they should avoid wearing perfume, using scented creams or shampoo and wearing dark colours.
What will we do on a Marsh visit?
You, the teacher, are ultimately responsible for the activities of your class during the field trip. Mr. Murphy will provide the students with an in-depth explanation of the science behind bird-banding, as well as a demonstration of mist-netting, handling, banding, data recording, and release protocols. It is important to note that birds can’t be netted in the rain, so be prepared to make an executive decision early on the morning of your field trip if the forecast is “iffy”.
On most visits, Murph will also accompany the class on a hike, giving a guided tour of a portion of the marsh, discussing its history and biodiversity, as well as the importance of wetlands as habitat and as “filters” in natural water systems.Where there is sufficient supervision, the children may also take part in “critter dipping” at the dock area to get a closer look at some of the invertebrates that help make up the biodiversity of the marsh. This is an excellent opportunity to discuss food chains and food webs, and what is necessary for good habitat.
There are lots of excellent resources for the teacher who wants to go beyond the basics of the marsh visit. This list is far from exhaustive and in no particular order. Please feel free to inform us of others which you find helpful so they can be added.
Bird Sleuth “Investigating Evidence.” Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. (online)