TIGNISH -- A twisted length of rope simulates waves lapping onto a shoreline. At water’s edge are small sections of pipe-cleaners: pretend food for pretend piping plovers.
Off to one side a group of Tignish Elementary Grade 4 students listen as Julie-Lynn Zahavich, project coordinator for the Island Nature Trust’s piping plover program, explain the challenges the endangered shorebirds face just to survive.
The students become Zahavich’s piping plovers, beach-walkers, even vehicles in a game-based educational program.
Tignish Elementary was the first school in western P.E.I. to take the Island Nature Trust up on its offer.
Zahavich starts her “plovers” off easy. They are allowed to race across their gym floor beach to water’s edge where they are given 20 seconds to gather up as many pieces of food as they can. The only catch is they must act like a plover and stamp one foot three times between each bite.
Then they race back to the starting point and count their food pieces.
That’s the easy part. Then Zahavich calls on other students to act like predators and
The students learn that the plovers have a harder time gathering food for themselves and their chicks when people, animals and machines are on their beach.
Zahavich concludes her simulation game by asking students how they could help safeguard the small shorebirds and their chicks.
The presentation served its purpose. Students called out the desired answers: keep your dog on a leash…don’t litter…don’t drive four wheelers on the beach.