A program that helps students understand the process of sustainable planning to balance land-uses such as agriculture, mining, and forestry with ecological integrity, was all put into motion seven years ago by SD83 teacher Dave Ramsay. It is still growing and going strong!
BC Tomorrow is an innovative set of learning tools that teachers at multiple grade levels can use with their students. The main driver, the engaging land use simulator, functions like a time machine as students can look back in time and see changes that have taken place. They can then go into the future to see how the land could look, given current trends. Students can also see what happens when certain changes are made, or not made, and see the impact this has on the environment and society. The students also take an active part in the program as they can collect, geotag and save water sampling data, images, video and other observations and share with other users of the program.
“We aim to provide youth, as future leaders, with the knowledge and desire to act in public decision making and to establish sustainable watershed
systems for future generations. We influence change by providing land-use simulation software and learning materials. The simulator, based on a professional version, uses cutting-edge GIS mapping technology and the latest research by leading scientists to enable users to jump back in time and then travel ahead to where we may be going based on current land-use trends and activities. The unique planning tool lets users design a plan for the future, then test it to see what kind of a future we may actually see.”
In May 2012 Salmon Arm Secondary (Sullivan) science teacher Dave Ramsay received school board approval for an environmental science curriculum he created as part of his Masters program. The course, designed to engage students, combined Grade 11 environmental science with civics, and provided hands-on learning opportunities based on the Shuswap Watershed.
The BC school curriculum provides students with the opportunity to explore subject matter within the context of bigger ideas in a combined perspective. “Water connects all the communities and water is the resource all living things depend on – it’s the one that moves,” Ramsay says. “We anticipate this learning tool is going to increase society’s engagement within their own watersheds. We’re not just building a teaching tool but developing something that will allow people to take action in their own watersheds,” said Ramsay.
“Watersheds are linked, they’re complex, they’re messy, and multidisciplinary; like the real world,” he said, “Education is going this way, the watershed functions are this way and BC Tomorrow is the tool that can meet the needs of both.”
A story in the Salmon Arm Observer about this new program was the impetus for a meeting between Ramsay and ecologist Barry Wilson, who quickly decided they needed to work together and formed the non-profit BC Tomorrow Society, whose mandate it is to help students and teachers better understand sustainable planning.
BC Tomorrow’s program is a free educational tool developed for use by students from kindergarten through Grade 12 as well as university and college. It was originally modeled after a similar project in Alberta. The simulator is described as a powerful tool that gives students the opportunity to learn, share and address real-life issues using real data about their province. “It lets them take ownership of their world,” adds Ramsay. Students can set goals and design a future for their area or British Columbia, that they want to see.
Visit B.C. Tomorrow website here
The simulator is peer-reviewed by qualified scientists, bias neutral, and allows students to examine land use in their watershed and create, test, and share their own scenarios for the future. Also included are BC-focused standalone instructional videos that show how human land-use impacts the economy, environment, and society. The third component is where students collect data in the real world, to use in class and share with others.
In collaboration with Alberta Tomorrow and supported by BC Tomorrow’s Board of Directors, educators, business, government, other non-profit organizations, and the community, Dave and Barry have been working to make BC Tomorrow available to educators, educational organizations, and the public throughout the province of BC.
The BC Tomorrow program is a registered charity in Canada. BC Tomorrow’s board of directors is served by representatives from education, non-profit, government and industry.
Ramsay says the program has wide support and he thanks all the supporters including Alberta Tomorrow, The Real Estate Foundation of BC, The Investment Agrcilture Foundation of BC, ALCES Landuse and Landscape ltd, Marathon Surfaces Inc, Arrow Services, Vancity, Telus, Rotary, Shuswap Community Foundation, IEG, RBC, Shuswap Naturalists, CE Analytic, and MacQuarrie Institute, who have supported the development of the simulator, the lessons, videos, and with administrative costs.