Small gestures can make a big change, and small hands can too. St. Michael Fitzroy School students learned this first-hand when they came together as a community to clean the Ottawa River watershed. Earlier this month, the school held a Fitzroy Provincial Park Cleanup, focusing on the shorelines and tributaries that lead to the Ottawa River.
Julia Ostertag, Director of Education and Community Engagement for Ottawa Riverkeeper, started her day by speaking at two school assemblies in the morning. She taught the primary and junior grades about the significance of the Ottawa River and the importance of taking care of it.
In the afternoon, the whole school gathered outside to start the cleanup. They began by gathering in the schoolyard for a Land Acknowledgement ceremony to remind everyone of the importance of respecting and taking responsibility for Mother Earth. Then, they split up into groups to divide and conquer.
Equipped with gloves, garbage bags, buckets, and trash grabbers, each group moved to their designated work area. The Kindergarten students focused on the schoolyard and the nearby church grounds. Students in grades 1-4 tackled the beach at Fitzroy Provincial Park, checking the shoreline for any plastic or litter that had washed up. Students in grades 5 and 6 took a trip to the community center nearby to clear out a creek that flows into the river. Senior students in grades 7 and 8 went to the Fitzroy Harbour boat launch to search for debris polluting the area.
After collecting and bagging all the trash, Julia, from the Ottawa Riverkeeper, weighed it on a special scale she brought to the event. The students were amazed they had picked up 66 pounds of garbage! As a token of appreciation for their community service, Municipal Councillor Clarke Kelly treated all the students to Timbits and hot chocolate after the cleanup.
The students not only collected the garbage but also managed to salvage two 100-pound tractor tires. Instead of recycling, these tires will be repurposed for reuse in the schoolyard. This is a better environmental choice, and the tires will serve as a daily reminder of the cleanup event and the importance of taking care of the watershed. Another cleanup event with the Ottawa Riverkeeper has been scheduled for the spring.