Blackberries are delicious, they just don’t belong here.
That’s what Dionne Lapointe-Bakota, a grade six and seven teacher at L’Ecole Phoenix Middle School, and about 20 of her students were learning about and addressing on Monday afternoon alongside a few members of the Greenways Land Trust.
“This is part of a unit we’re learning about in science on ecosystems,” Laponte-Bakota said after the kids had all gotten to work chopping up the vines that have overtaken that section of brush.
“This is a beach I use as a learning tool quite frequently in my lessons,” she said. “We came down here and did a beach study. We also came down here to participate in a beach cleanup in September.”
Part of Lapointe-Bakota’s grade seven Science course is also about the human impact on ecosystems, she said, and one of those human impacts is the introduction of invasive species. “I’m hoping the kids learn not only about how humans impact ecosystems, but also what we can do to try and reduce and lessen those impacts, as well.”
“It’s a great partnership,” according to Greenways Volunteer Coordinator Libby King. “We’re always looking for more projects like this.”
King said that one of her roles as volunteer coordinator is to explore different partnerships, like the one with Lapointe-Bakota’s class, where they can explore the human-nature relationship in an educational and transformative way.
“It’s really important that people recognize these issues, especially surrounding invasive species that don’t belong here,” she said, adding that Greenways does “a ton of work” addressing species like blackberry and broom, because, she said, they have a hugely negative affect not only on other plant life but also animal life like clogging up salmon spawning habitats in our streams.
Lapointe-Bakota said it’s easy for people to overlook the negative consequences of some invasive species because we actually enjoy their presence – like the delicious blackberries produced by the thick vines they were hacking up on Monday.
“Sure, sometimes even invasive species can offer us good things,” she laughed. “I go blackberry picking myself every August. But they don’t have any natural predators here and grow very prolifically and rapidly, and because of that they can take over the habitat of native species,” she admitted. It’s important to recognize them for what they are, take steps to address their impact on the environment and share that knowledge and appreciation with the next generation.
King is hoping that Greenways could one day do something along the shoreline similar to their “Adopt a Trail” program, where groups or individuals would “adopt” a section of shoreline and work to keep its natural condition intact, but for now, they will rely on partnerships like this one to do that work.
Those who would like to learn more about the impact of invasive species or would like to form an educational partnership with Greenways like the one Lapointe-Bakota is using in her classroom can contact King at firstname.lastname@example.org