Students from Salmo elementary have been working to design and install six interpretive panels to engage the community on the importance of conserving the western painted turtle population at Champion Lakes Provincial Park. The project has been a true community collaboration, bringing together Wildsight’s EcoStewards program, Artstarts – Artists in the Classroom, RAP Park Contracting and the Salmo school, with the support of the Columbia Basin Trust.
Anne and Rick Pigeon, the park facility operators at Champion Lakes noticed that these special turtles were being harassed and their habitat trampled. They wanted to do something about it and received a grant to develop interpretive signs to educate park visitors.
This is where the Grade 2 to 6 multi-age class at Salmo elementary stepped in. The students helped to illustrate the signs using the expertise of local artists and knowledge gained about the turtles through interactive activities, costumes, puppets, role-playing and discussion.
With the guidance of artist Heather Dean, they have produced some amazing paintings of the western painted turtle, its food sources and predators. Nichola Lytle, of Pink Dog Designs, introduced the students to the elements of designing interpretive signs and helped them envision what the final signs will look like. She is currently working on designing the signs with the beautiful artwork and design input generated by the students.
Later this month, the students will take a field trip to Champion Lakes where they will be immersed in the turtles’ home, studying the ecosystem relationships in the park.·
“This has been an amazing example of community partnerships and a chance for the students to be active participants in a project that will have real-life meaning and impact — I see that they already feel empowered to be helping,” said local Wildsight educator Genna Lazier. “My hope is that these students will become stewards of the turtles in their backyard park for years to come. The class has amazed me with their interest in the project and their artistic development — this a special group of kids.”
There will be an art opening and celebration in June where student artwork, the signs and a video montage of photos from the project will be on display. The signs will be installed in the park in July.