By Eraina Hooyer
Fresh air, spring blossoms and wildlife are continuously being enjoyed at the JJ Collett Centre by many students from Ponoka and surrounding areas.
The JJ Collett Educational program involves approximately 17 classes of 425 students from Ponoka, Lacombe, Blackfalds and other nearby areas. The program is one hour of instruction in the classroom and ties in with the curriculum and as part of that students are given a tour of the natural area.
“It educates students on the importance of preservation,” said secretary treasurer of the JJ Collett Centre Lavonne Baehl. “It promotes conservation of natural habitats instead of residential and commercial development. It also promotes people to use the natural area.”
Dow Chemical has helped encourage the centre to continue teaching students conservation by making a three year commitment totaling $20,000 to go towards the educational program.
Instructor Doug Gill guides the groups of students through the natural area and educates them on the different types of trees, wildlife, the importance of preserving the environment and more.
Gill enjoys teaching the students that come through the centre and taking in the great outdoors, especially since the arrival of warm weather.
“It’s good being in the fresh air and out in nature with the students,” said Gill. “Right now everything is blooming, we see a lot of deer and other wildlife, it’s a great experience for them.”
The tour also focuses on rotten log activity, fungus identification and more.
The students are given activity books and the program also offers education on what careers are available that involve nature.
The Grade 6 class at St. Augustine School recently donated $200 towards the program with the money they raised from a recycling project.
Baehl was impressed with the students and pleased that they chose to donate that money to help with the program.
“It’s excellent,” she said. “It’s good that they are recycling and using that money to go to the environment.”
Gill was proud of the class’ achievements with the recycling project and is glad they are interested in giving to the program. He encourages students to take an interest in nature and understand the area so that they will want to take care of it.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” said Gill. “It shows where their thinking is and what they are focusing on. One of the greatest challenges these students will face will be to maintain that area and it’s great to see their interest in it now.”
The JJ Collett Centre boasts of 640 acres of natural area and has over 80 members, anyone is encouraged to join and become involved.
“It’s one of the best kept secrets in Central Alberta,” said Gill. “What we have there is a real gem.”