07/30/2012 02:53 EDT | Updated 10/02/2012 05:12 EDT

Why I Teach My Students About the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

For as long as I can remember, I have been aware that water is precious and that I shouldn't waste it. My mum always made sure we had water-saving showerheads, turned the water off when brushing our teeth, and didn't leave the tap running unnecessarily. I heard about the dangers of water pollution through David Suzuki and my teachers in elementary school.

I know, as an educator, that there are some lessons that will stay with my students and others that they will forget. Preserving our environment and protecting our waterways are two issues that are important to our survival, and the concept of environmental stewardship is embedded in our school's curriculum. Helping to clean up local waterways is an impactful way for my students to become stewards of the earth and to make environmental issues real to them.

I want my students to help the environment by being physically involved and to learn that they are responsible for preserving our trees, wildlife and rivers.

Last year my class researched and wrote letters to fight proposed industry projects that may pose a threat to the environment. We also participated in the CN Tower Climb benefiting WWF, and two Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanups.

I was also pleased to discover that the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup website has many different educational resources that teach children about the impact of garbage in our waterways -- which we studied before going out on a shoreline cleanup this past May. This was part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup's spring educational program.

By the time we got to our cleanup site on the Don River in Toronto during our May cleanup, my students could identify different types of garbage, how long it takes for them to break down and the negative impacts of garbage on ecosystems. We explored a local area of the river, saw the impact of garbage in our waterways firsthand and picked up about 58kg of garbage in only two hours! It was an amazing trip and my students were proudly telling their families and friends for weeks afterwards about all the good they had done.

I'm planning to join the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup in September and I'm sure my next class will also benefit from learning how important it is to keep our waterways clean. Imagine the difference we can make if one class from every school went out to clean up their local shoreline!

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited, is one of the largest direct action conservation programs in Canada. A conservation initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium and WWF, the Shoreline Cleanup aims to promote understanding of shoreline litter issues by engaging Canadians to rehabilitate shoreline areas through cleanups. The fall cleanup is taking place from Sept. 15-23, and signing up is as easy as visiting