One fish, two fish, red fish, 600 colourful hand-painted fish.
This week, the fencing along the north end of Breslau Public School will be lined with a mural of fish crafted by students from Kindergarten through Grade 8.The art project, expected to stay in place for the next five to ten years, is the first “Stream of Dreams” campaign promoting “eco-education with a focus on local watersheds, streams and rivers” in the Region of Waterloo.
“This is our pilot school this spring and we are hoping to offer it watershed-wide in the future,” Grand River Conservation Authority representative Jenn Deter said. “It helps the kids make a connection, and it provides a visual reminder around their school. And we want the kids to share what they’ve learned with their parents and their grandparents.”
She added, “If they see their dad putting motor oil down the storm drain, they might say, ‘hey, dad, I don’t think that’s a good idea.’”
It’s an important lesson, particularly in a village like Breslau, which is home to a stretch of the Grand River.
“Storm drains are a direct connection to the watercourse,” Deter explained. “There is no treatment, so when people put garbage, or paint, or chemicals down there, it goes straight to the fish habitat. Their purpose is for flood control and to take water away quickly. So there is a difference between the storm drains and what goes down your kitchen sink, which is either treated or it goes to a septic system.”
Stream of Dreams was launched in Burnaby, British Columbia in 2000 after illegal dumping of toxic waste in a storm drain killed some 5,000 fish in Bryne Creek.
Over the last 15 years, the awareness campaign has spread to 400 schools across Canada with over 125,000 participating students to date.
Teacher Wendy Rudd was instrumental in making Breslau Public School the first Waterloo Region District School Board member to take part.
A former GRCA employee, she was excited by the opportunity to get students thinking about the natural environment in their community.
“When I heard that the GRCA was getting involved, I jumped at the chance to bring the program to our school,” Rudd said. “It’s a fun way for our students to learn about the watershed and why it is so important to keep pollutants out of our storm drains.”
Last week, classes rotated through an educational presentation and the painting station, where they each got their own fish cutout on which to let their creativity run wild.
The results were impressive, with a dazzling array of colours, patterns and designs quickly piling up in pizza boxes – for drying and temporary storage – ready to be attached to the school’s fencing June 10-11.
Deter is confident the project will make a difference at the school.
“These kids are the future, so even if they just remember one little tid bit from our presentation and they bring that with them, we’ve done our job.”