Yukon students learn at the lake

About 90 Yukon students had class outdoors this week. An event called the "Yukon Envirothon" sees students go through the steps of creating an environmental assessment.

High schoolers study how water quality is measured, learn about environmental assessments

Sarah Sternbergh, a hydrogeological engineer, teaches students how to measure water quality, at Whitehorse's Long Lake this week. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

About 90 Whitehorse high school students spent a day at the lake this week — but they weren't skipping class.

They were taking part in an event called the "Yukon Envirothon", which draws together grade 10 science, grade 11 biology and grade 12 geography, with different assignments for different grade levels.

Students learned about environmental assessments, and going through the motions of analysing a project's impact on land and water quality. 

Sana Syed, a Grade 11 student at Vanier Catholic Secondary School, took part in the mock study. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

The artificial scenario involved a proposal to build new cottages at Long Lake in the city. Students were offered two sites and a plan for development, and had to choose one site. 

"We're doing a mock study on how to expand the urban containment boundary," said Sana Syed, a Grade 11 student at Vanier Catholic Secondary School.

Water testing on site 

Sarah Sternbergh is a hydrogeological engineer who works with Tetra Tech EBA and her job usually involves designing wells and testing water at remote sites.

She guided the students through a water quality test.

"We want to test for things in Yukon like microbiology and some metals.

"We see a lot are arsenic and uranium and we're asking [the students] to compare the results we got today to the Canadian drinking water standards and see if the water would be potable as is, or there would be more treatment," she said.

Geotechnical Engineer Justin Pigage, who advises the city of Whitehorse, was one of the experts who met the students to discuss soil and water. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Students consider soil, water, wildlife

Teacher Mike Gallant of Vanier Secondary says the students will have to make a decision in their reports, based on many factors. 

That means considering the cottages' potential impacts on soil, water, First Nations' historical settlements, and local wildlife.

"We're drawing data from both of those sites, comparing both of those sites and then making a proposal that the kids can defend," he said.

Students also heard from Geotechnical Engineer Justin Pigage, one of the experts who advises the City of Whitehorse. 

Jesse McCuaig, a Grade 11 student at Vanier, enjoyed the day. 

"Actually it's fun, I like to be out here and apply what I am learning in my class to what the experts do in their jobs, in everyday scenarios," he said. 

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