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Rivers to Oceans Day. Connecting humans, the land and aquatic ecosystems

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Wilfrid Laurier University has hands-on experiments that demonstrate how plants take up water.

On a warm June day, snuggled between World Oceans Day (June 8) and Canadian Rivers Day (second Sunday in June), over 300 youth flood onto the shores of Frame Lake in downtown Yellowknife to celebrate everything from Rivers to Oceans.

Every year, Rivers to Oceans Day sees enthusiastic participation by elementary school students and teachers from across Yellowknife, often joined by students from the nearby communities of Dettah, Ndilǫ, and Behchokǫ̀, as well as local homeschool students. Before the students arrive, early in the morning, presenters from non-profits, businesses, research institutions, and all levels of government (municipal, territorial, federal, and First Nations) have been working to turn the large, grassy space into a series of fun, interactive stations that will help engage the youth on all things Rivers to Oceans. Over the course of the day, students rotate through stations and learn about a wide range of topics, including coastal erosion, benthic invertebrates, waterfowl, plastic pollution, the historical importance of local waterways for transportation, and water safety. The goal of the event is to get students outside, active, and learning new things in hands-on and engaging ways.

All smiles during the kayak relay races with the Somba K’e Paddle Club. © Government of the Northwest Territories, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (4)

For almost a decade, come rain or shine, Ecology North has coordinated Rivers to Oceans Day, an event which brings together a huge number of organizations to foster love, appreciation, and excitement for all things water. The event is hosted in partnership with the Government of the Northwest Territories – Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Government of Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society hosted the event for many years before Ecology North took it on.

Rivers to Oceans Day celebrates the interconnectedness of humans, the land, and aquatic ecosystems, and highlights that taking care of local and global waterways is a shared responsibility. Ecology North has been promoting and supporting water stewardship in the North since 1971, nearly 50 years. The annual event reflects perfectly in Ecology North’s overarching mission: to bring people and knowledge together for a healthy northern environment. For the past five decades, Ecology North has been working directly with individuals and communities to foster water stewardship and take direct action to protect and improve the health of local waterways. From working with communities to respond to the effects of climate change on their municipal water systems, to helping with hazardous waste clean-ups across the NWT, educating youth about the northern environment remains one of their most important roles in the community.

While this version of Rivers to Oceans Day takes place in Yellowknife, in the past, the event has been put on for students in Hay River, Northwest Territories as well, and Ecology North staff are always happy to support events in other northern communities.