Environment Fair 2011

We make decisions about the natural environment we live in every day, whether we do it on purpose or not. Drinking water, food sources, clean air – all these things are affected by how we interact with the wild, and not-so-wild, world around us.

So what impacts are we having, and are we happy with those choices?

Some people think about that question all the time, and they’re sharing their expertise with kids, youth and adults alike at the day-long Environment Fair this Saturday, May 14 from 9:30 am until about 4:00 pm. (Some schools will tour the displays separately on May 13.)

The festival’s theme this year is “Learning for the Land.” There are more than a dozen demonstrations and presenters.

There are too many activities to list, but here are some highlights.

First off, there’s a lot to learn about fish, which leads to learning about water, air and land too.

The display “Kluane’s Kokanee Salmon – a Kool Mystery Story” lets us in on the story of how scientists have been monitoring Kluane’s kokanee salmon since before anyone in high school was even born. That timeframe is why scientists knew there was a sudden change when the kokanee population dramatically dropped a few years ago.

Parks Canada people will talk with kids about the bust and boom cycles in fish populations. The next natural stop might be to visit the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to see its displays about caring for salmon habitat.

Details on what we know about caring for land, water and salmon – what the salmon need and how we can protect them – will be at the “Stewardship of salmon and their environment” display.

Older science-minded youth might even want to take a turn at dissecting a salmon, to see how the fish’s insides give information about health and habitat.

Continuing with the fish theme, check out “Traditional values and teaching in a modern context.”

The Ta’an Kwach’an First Nation will share traditional methods of harvesting, preserving salmon, gathering around a fire pit to learn about the fish camps that are held each summer in the Yukon.

This demonstration will be a practical example of how fish and humans are both part of the food chain over many years.

Another important member in the food chain is the bear.

At the “Being More Than Bear Aware” station, students can learn how a bear trap works, how and why data and samples are collected from bears.

Staff from the Conservation Officer Services Branch will set up a demonstration of live bear trapping (we’re not sure who gets to act the bear part) and students can also look at bear scat samples to see what can be learned about where a bear has been, what it eats and when it’s been eating lots or little.

And what about the air that all the animals and plants use to live?

The demo “Cleaning up our Atmosphere” sounds particularly fun because it includes water and a bathtub. What are carbon dioxide emissions, and how does our atmosphere absorb it? Students can join in this hands-on set of timed games and experiments presented by the Climate Change Secretariat, and prizes have been promised.

Driving around in our environment is something we all do, so the Highways and Public Works staff have a booth at the Environment Fair too. They’ll present “Green Considerations for Highways and Building Infrastructure.”

The formal name sounds as if it’s more for grownups, but youth also know the excitement of being in the car on a drive and seeing a bear, elk, fox or other wildlife near the road.

Big questions addressed in this demonstration include:

How does road construction impact the ecosystem? How does highway maintenance affect plant and animal life?

Does the weather station in Kelowna, BC know what the weather is in Whitehorse, and if so, how does it know?

Knowledgeable folks from Highways and Public Works will show the tools that they use to monitor highway conditions even from far away.

Other demonstrations and presentations talk about how we grow the food we eat, what it takes to keep the water around us healthy, and who to talk to if you’re curious about developing a career in environmental science right here in the North.

Information about this free event is at

Meg Walker is a writer and visual artist living in Dawson City.

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