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Urban ecology in the classroom: Resources and workshops to support sustainability


By Naomi Higo (she/her), co-ordinator, Institute of Urban Ecology


Sometimes, when we live in an urban area with lots of cars and roads and buildings, it can be easy to forget or overlook all the nature that shares space with us.


The Institute of Urban Ecology has free programs and resources for teachers focused on real problems faced by urban residents, such as microplastics and invasive species. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Our workshops and resources shine a light on the problems but focus on the solutions. Our goal is to leave students feeling empowered and inspired to continue finding ways to help protect our urban ecosystems.


Urban ecology is a relatively new science but is growing in importance. Metro Vancouver is one of Canada’s fastest growing populations. As one of the country’s most biologically diverse ecosystems, it is crucial that people living in Metro Vancouver recognize the important ecosystem services needed to battle climate change and keep our communities healthy and happy. Community engagement is an explicit component of the Institute of Urban Ecology and a vital part of urban ecological sustainability.


Did you know there are 230 species at risk in Metro Vancouver today?

Amphibians are the most threatened group of vertebrates in the world! BC is home to 22 different species of amphibians, and 8 of them are known to be in decline (many species’ statuses are still unknown). Across the country, 44% (23/52) of amphibian species have been listed as endangered, threatened, or special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.


Urban development is one of the largest contributors of amphibian declines in Canada. Habitat loss and fragmentation, road mortality, pollution, chemical contamination, invasive species, climate change, and the illegal pet trade are just a handful of problems threatening our urban amphibians today.


Your class can discover more about BC’s amazing amphibians in our Amazing Amphibian workshop, which is available for classes of all ages in-person or online (available on YouTube).


Bats are also suffering a similar fate. More than 200 bat species in 60 countries around the world are considered threatened (critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. BC is home to 16 different bat species, and 8 of them are listed as species at risk.


Why should you care?

Aren’t bats just dirty, disease-carrying vermin? This kind of belief is one of the reasons why so many bats are struggling to survive in our urban ecosystems. Through the eyes of a scientist, students can learn to sort bat myths from bat facts with our interactive puppet show (K–3) or with a game of bat trivia (Grade 4 and up). If in-person workshops are not an option for you, check out our How to Save Endangered Bats video on YouTube.


What else can you do?

Every one of our workshops ends with a group discussion addressing one big question: “What else can you do?” As students start to brainstorm, our workshop facilitator will guide them toward actionable solutions within their control.


Some examples of actionable solutions from other classes include:

  • Removing invasive plants from your school or local park.

  • Building your own bee house and discovering the secret world of solitary bees.

  • Building a mini greenhouse in the school garden and discovering the beauty and benefits of native plants.

  • Joining our citizen science Beetle Watch project and helping to collect real data for the Institute of Urban Ecology’s ongoing research project.

With a solution-focused approach to urban ecology, each student is left feeling empowered and inspired to continue finding ways to help protect our urban ecosystems.


To learn more about the Institute of Urban Ecology click here or email iue@douglascollege.ca.

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