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Combining energy literacy and nature conservation
Students build birdhouses as part of educational program

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thurday, June 14, 2012

Students in grades 4, 5 and 6 at Echo Dene School built birdhouses on May 31 and increased their knowledge about natural resources.

NNSL photo/graphic

Curtis Lomen holds the birdhouse he was building with the help of Cam Batchelor, left, an employee with oil and gas company Nexen, during an Energy in Action event held at Echo Dene School in Fort Liard on May 31. Students learned how long it takes trees to grow and what products are made from petroleum. They also watched a simplified introduction to hydraulic fracturing. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

For the first time, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers brought its Energy in Action initiative to Fort Liard. Energy in Action is an energy literacy program that combines information about Canada's oil and natural gas resources with activities that are designed to show the importance of environmental stewardship.

The association's members decide which communities to which they would like to take the program. Quicksilver Resources, which has projects approximately 60 km from Fort Liard, campaigned to bring the program to Echo Dene School.

"It's been awesome," said Jaime Lawrence, a community and aboriginal relations representative with the company.

"It really reflects the good stewardship initiative that the industry has."

Students in the three grades spent the morning in an interactive presentation about natural resources, particularly renewable and non-renewable resources that are used to create energy.

Students learned about how long it takes trees to grow and what products are made from petroleum. A play, in which they acted out parts, gave students a simplified introduction to hydraulic fracturing.

A final message about how to conserve natural resources and maintain the environment tied into the afternoon's activities. Andrew Stiles, known as the birdman of Calgary, told his story of how he became interested in conservation.

Virtual bird watching tour

He also gave students a virtual bird-watching tour of local birds, using photos, before taking them outside to build their own birdhouses with help from volunteers from five companies that are part of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

In between pounding nails into her birdhouse, Leona Berreault, 11, said she was enjoying the day. Berreault said she learned a lot about oil and also all of the different kinds of local birds and where they live.

Berreault, who'd never built a birdhouse before, said the construction was pretty easy.

Dylan Steeves, 11, who was also inexperienced at building birdhouses, said he was having fun.

Steeves said he learned a lot of new information about both natural resources and birds.

"There's lots of types of birds around here that I'd never heard of before," he said.

At the end of the day, the students were encouraged to take their birdhouses home and hang them up to see what types of birds would frequent them.

Echo Dene School was also presented with a collection of environmental books.

Energy in Action has been delivered in 80 schools in more than 60 different communities since it was created in 2004. Echo Dene School was the ninth and final stop for this school year.

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