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ON Press: Lesson for Students & Turtles

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Thu Aug 16 07:45:56 2007  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  

KINGSTON THIS WEEK (Ontario) 08 August 07 Lesson pays off for teacher, students and turtles (Michael Sykes is the CRCA's marketing and communications assistant)
Efforts by concerned students to educate motorists to avoid turtles crossing roads is turning into a civic lesson, says Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority Education Officer Stana Luxford.
"As a group, one of my classes took on getting (turtle crossing) signs erected," says Ms. Luxford. "If anything, it has taught the kids to be patient, but persistent, and that change takes time."
The project started during an alternative conservation education class in October 2006. Most class members have studied with Ms. Luxford for years so there is an easy, yet respectful, familiarity that binds this mentor and those she guides.
"Over the years, we have addressed the turtle road kill issue and the students were disturbed by it; they were very upset," recalls Ms. Luxford.
So they turned to their teacher and Ms. Luxford wondered aloud about turtle crossing signs.
"We focused on how to identify the turtle species, and from there it went to 'what can we do to help them'," she recalls. "So as a group we took on the project of getting signs erected."
Attempts to influence municipal governments turned into a civics exercise.
"We found that it's a lot more difficult to get the city to put up a sign and we learned, that they don't want signs all over the place," says Ms. Luxford.
They discovered that Kingston already has four turtle crossing signs. Adding more was a numbers game. City officials cited three considerations to justify more signage: public input, staff field observations and a hard number of turtle sightings.
"You have to document turtle signings and it can't be by just one person," elaborates Ms. Luxford, "it has to be a lot of people."
The challenge, according to some biologists, is that permanent signs become, with time, invisible to motorists. Seasonal signs are thought to be marginally more effective. These stay in place only during times that turtles cross roads in search of places to lay eggs.
And that's what happened. A seasonal sign has been added to a section of Perth Road crossed by turtles - one year after Ms. Luxford's students accepted the challenge.
"If anything, this has taught the kids to be really patient," says Ms. Luxford. "And I'm pleased that the students get to see the fruits of their labour."
Two of her students, Erin Scott and Sage Irwin, both 12, took independent action.
They created posters and strategically placed them in downtown Kingston to educate the public about turtles.
They were inspired by both Ms. Luxford and Matt Ellerbeck, a well-known Kingston-area reptile advocate known for his public talks. He added his voice to those pressing for a turtle crossing sign.
"After his talk, they were inspired so they put up posters and signs in stores about the plight of turtles," says Ms. Luxford.
These leadership examples by teachers underline the importance of setting positive examples of environmentalism for young people.
"It teaches them how to take an issue they're concerned about and push for change," says Ms. Luxford. "I think it teaches them the connection that we are all a part of this planet."
A lifelong outdoor education teacher, Ms. Luxford pays special attention to practicing what she preaches.
"If we (her classes) see something like a caterpillar, we'll make sure we remove it from the trail," she says. "These may be small acts but I think they set a big example of being mindful of all life."
It's a logical extension of helping turtles cross dangerous roadways.
"Turtles are a really important species in our wetlands, both as a scavenger but also as a predator," she says.
Ms. Luxford encourages families to select an area of environmental interest to turn into family projects.
"Choose something that as a family everyone can work on, then be persistent and patient," she urges.
Stana Luxford graduated with degrees from both the University of Waterloo and Queen's University.
She says her goal is to instill awe and respect for the natural environment today through the head, heart and hands, contributing to a strong conservation ethic tomorrow. Op-Ed&type=search&search1=turtles


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