Drama class takes on invasive plant production
Canmore’s Grade 10 drama class is planting a seed of knowledge with all Bow Valley elementary grade students.
The class has been performing the Alberta Parks play Plant Wars – Invaders of the Lost Park at schools throughout the valley over the past month as part of a partnership between local municipalities and Kananaskis Country.
Town of Canmore Supervisor of Parks Lisa Guest approached Canmore Collegiate High School drama teacher Sabrina Harper and Kananaskis interpretive supervisor Daniella Rübeling to help get the play’s message into local schools.
Harper said having Grade 10 drama students perform the play in Morley, Exshaw, Canmore and Banff is a special opportunity.
“It has truly been an incredible opportunity for the students to have this type of performance where they are interacting with all the kids of the Bow Valley,” she said. “It is so neat to see the students connect with the children and have a greater understanding of the power of performance.”
Usually, the Drama 10 course would have one final production, Harper said, but with the invasive plants play, the students performed in front of 1,300 students.
In addition to that audience, the students will give public performances of the play for the community on June 12 and 13 at CCHS, with tickets $5 and the show beginning at 7 p.m. both nights.
Rübeling’s staff wrote the play in 2009 and she performed it with one other performer in Calgary area schools for two winters.
“We have been doing that kind of educational programming with theatre in schools for over 10 years and then we have been doing this style of education programming in Alberta parks for over 20 years,” she said. “There is a long history of using theatre to deliver educational messages about parks, animals and plants that we have with Alberta parks in Kananskis Country specifically.”
Rübeling helped out backstage for the shows and with the logistics of a touring show, which the high school students have never done before.
“Seeing their reactions and hearing the kids and audience giggle and react to what is going on onstage was amazing,” she said. “I think this whole idea of building a community and empowering high school students to teach this to elementary students has built an exciting momentum to get rid of invasive weeds in the Bow Valley,” she said.
Guest said the play is a great example of how education compliments enforcement by the parks department as part of the Bow Corridor Invasive Plant Initiative.
Canmore is required under the Weed Control Act to spray pesticides to control invasive plant species.
With appointed weed inspectors in town, Guest said, they respond to any complaints of invasive species and focus on education with residents before spraying chemicals.
“People in Canmore are passionate about not using chemicals,” she said, adding the department is seeing about 50 per cent compliance.
Invasive plants take over the habitat of native species and may not necessarily be considered invasive where they originally come from, Rübeling said.
She added some, once established, are very hard to get rid of and affect the entire ecosystem from bees and other pollinators to native animals like elk and deer which may not be able to eat the plants.
“If they take over, elk and deer will have less to eat, which affects their populations and could affect predator populations,” she said. “It is a whole ecosystem thing.”
Part of the problem is people are unknowingly purchasing invasive plant species as part of wildflower seed packs.
Guest said she is working with retailers in town to communicate that those particular species are a problem and that they require the municipality to use pesticides to get rid of them.
She added the municipality has been working on an appropriate wildflower seed mix that will soon be available at Sobeys.
The second aspect of the program is to take all Grade 4 students into Kananaskis Country for a field study with environmental educators to pull weeds.
Rübeling said the first class in the field was a great success, with students excited to be pulling weeds from the start.
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