In the name of habitat restoration

This is the second time students from Hooge have combined an environmental study of Balabanian Creek with curriculum.

It’s Tuesday morning at Harry Hooge elementary. Logan Brickwood scans the tip of an alder tree on Balabanian Creek, a brook behind the school.

“I think it’s 50 meters tall,” he says.

Tiffany Copeland, a parent volunteer in Paula Howarth’s Grade 5 class, records estimates of today’s tree measuring group before they use a clinometer, an instrument that computes height.

Logan’s guess seems high, but it’s dead on. “I like to look at trees and nature,” he says.

The tree group is one of several Howarth and fellow staffer Nick Warren direct on alternate days to record information about the creek’s wildlife, water quality – ph, oxygen, turbidity – and plants.

Not long ago, Ross Davies of KEEPS brought live invertebrates and spoke about their role as stream health indicators. Today, a team with dip nets, buckets and “rescue trays” will compare aquatic worms, caddis and mayfly nymphs with drawings.

As usual, everyone is busy, including kids collecting garbage, and a group of ‘journalists’ who circulate, ask questions, and take photos. All data is taken back to class, shared, and used in science experiments (affects of urban runoff and lawn fertilization on stream health), writing, and other curriculum.

“It’s fun to go out and identify bugs instead of just doing it from books,” says Taylor Mckee, Logan’s classmate.

Taylor sees kids keeping garbage out of the creek now. “When we started, we got four bags of garbage. I didn’t know people littered so much. In my class, though, I think they stopped because if things go into the creek, it affects all the wildlife.”

Makenna O’Neill likes the change. “I like helping the environment so it will be a better place for people to visit after school.”

Makenna takes relatives to the creek to show them things she’s discovered. “Last time, we found a bear print.”

On Thursday, it’s Mr. Warren’s class at streamside. “I’d never been here before this,” admits student, Diana Bitoiu.  “This got me outdoors, away from the TV.”

“I like seeing all the cool, different bugs,” says Jackson Longmuir. Learning how to measure the height of trees was another highlight. “Once you’ve done it, it’s pretty easy,” Jackson says.

Santina Bassanese sums up research in Balabanian Creek this way: “I don’t like staying indoors playing video games. We get to explore in nature.”

Warren agrees. “Hands-on stuff often works better than textbooks.

“You know something works when kids are talking about what they’ve done at the creek, and taking ownership of it.”

This is the second time students from Hooge have combined an environmental  study of Balabanian Creek with curriculum. In 1996, Grade 7 teacher Keith Rogalsky received Salmon Habitat funding to restore the area and involve kids in science integration and stewardship. This year, Rogalsky shared his knowledge with Howarth and Warren in preparation for their program, which uses equipment Rogalsky acquired.

Balabanian Creek is known to support coho salmon, cutthroat and rainbow trout. Recommendations were made to sustain and improve its rearing habitat. The continuing stewardship of the creek by students, teachers, and parents at Hooge argues for all levels of government support in the name of habitat restoration and education.

Other good news:

• Parents at Hooge raised funds to convert a bare piece of ground into a garden, picnic site, stage, and area where students can gather and enjoy the outdoors.

“The kids planted everything here,” says Nicki McKee (Taylor’s mom) . “They like to water the plants, and weed.”

•  June 4th environmental organizations, charities, and unions darken their websites ( to protest Conservative government cuts to environmental protection. Locals rally 2:30 p.m., June 2nd outside MP Randy Kamp’s office.

• ARMS has a Hydro grant of $10,000 to convert a mud flat on the Alouette to spawning habitat for coho, chinook, pink, chum, and cutthroat.


Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Spray paint was discovered at Hot Rocks. (Special to The News)
Popular Maple Ridge summer destination vandalized

Rocks discovered with spray paint along South Alouette

Police shut down 240 Street after a single vehicle accident. (The News files)
Maple Ridge man dies following crash

Police believe he went into medical distress before accident

An early morning fire forced the evacuation of a Maple Ridge apartment building on Saturday, April 3 (Deborah Hampton/Special to The News)
City of Maple Ridge thanks volunteers for response to Easter weekend blaze

Emergency Support Services volunteers stepped up to help displaced residents

A partial image from the painting Kanaka Creek by Eric Hotz, which in the exhibit at the Pitt Meadows Art Gallery.
A Study of Nature exhibition opens at Pitt Meadows Art Gallery

Eric Hotz paintings feature familiar scenes from across the Lower Mainland

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Onlookers laugh and jeer as B.C. teen beaten, then forced to strip and walk home

Police arrest older teen, call video shared on social media ‘disturbing’

Surrey RCMP are seeking the public's help to locate three puppies stolen from a South Surrey home on April 10. (Surrey RCMP photos)
Puppies stolen during weekend break-and-enter in South Surrey

Surrey RCMP seeking public’s assistance in locating three American Bulldog puppies

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

Mounties say they “corralled” four Ford Mustangs April 4 after an officer saw the muscle cars racing down 184 Street near 53 Avenue at about 10 p.m. (File Photo)
Mounties impound four Mustangs

Surrey RCMP say they seized four cars for street racing

Most Read