White Rock resident Corinne Issel flips through a teaching guide she developed with the Burns Bog Conservation Society.

Sharing love for the bog

White Rock educator helps develop teaching guide

Burns Bog has special meaning to Corinne Issel, who, as a small girl, would walk with her parents through the wetland that neighboured her childhood home.

“I just fell in love with it,” Issel said.

When she picked up running as a university student, Issel began frequenting the area’s trails. They permeated serenity, she said, and “the feeling that you were removed from our regular surroundings and in a place that is utterly unique.”

It was during that time that Issel took more notice of the damaging effect human interference could have on the bog.

“I became much more aware of the threats.”

Now, with a young daughter of her own, the White Rock resident has found a way to share her love – and concern – for the Delta site with others.

The former Surrey school teacher is celebrating the release of a publication she helped develop with the Burns Bog Conservation Society to bring bog awareness and education to students.

For Peat’s Sake: A Complete Classroom Study on Burns Bog and Other Peatlands is a curriculum educators can use to teach children about biodiversity, living resources and life sciences, using Burns Bog as a prime example.

The teaching resource was launched Sunday (July 24) as part of the society’s International Bog Day activities.

“I’m excited… to see it come to fruition,” Issel said.

The project has been five years in the making, and replaces a 15-year-old curriculum that Issel said has become outdated.

She was first introduced to the old teaching resource when her husband, Brad – a South Surrey teacher himself – purchased it at a professional development conference eight years ago.

Issel, who was teaching at HT Thrift at the time, used it to create a Burns Bog unit for her Grade 4/5 class.

“The kids fell in love with it,” she said. “At first, they didn’t know about (the bog), then they became very passionate.

“It was an immense success.”

Issel taught the unit the following year at another school, taking her class to an area of the bog that is now closed off to the public.

“The field trip was really incredible because the plant life the kids had studied was there.”

When teaching it again in 2006, Issel inquired at the Burns Bog Conservation Society about having a representative speak to her class.

Karla Olson – who was starting work on the new curriculum – overheard Issel, and asked if she’d like to use her teaching experience to collaborate on the project.

Issel jumped on the opportunity, and the two began meeting on a regular basis, updating information and developing new material.

“It took a really, really long time,” Issel said.

The result is a 205-page guide that follows B.C. ministry guidelines, and includes lesson-plan suggestions and tips, kid-friendly illustrations and photocopiable reading materials and activities.

Issel – who now runs a private tutoring service – said the resource also explores issues-based ideas, such as the power of individuals to create change and have a positive impact on the environment.

It’s a message that can resonate around the globe, which is one of the reasons the material – which targets kindergarten to Grade 7 students – is expected to be used internationally.

“It’s not just about Burns Bog… but the fact that it’s this attitude we want to take around the world.”

For those interested in learning more about the bog, but who don’t have use for the guide’s teaching material, a 103-page illustrated book has been released for adults and children alike.

For Peat Sake: The Story of Burns Bog and Other Peatlands includes a special gift-giving page where donors can write a personal message.

Issel said sponsorship opportunities are available for those who’d like to donate a copy to a school or public library.

“This is meant to be something that’s a keepsake or gift,” she said.

Issel hopes the entire project creates awareness about a natural gem many take for granted.

“It’s a legacy for the community that I grew up in,” she said.

“It’s important for people to realize what’s going on right here.”

For more information, visit www.burnsbog.org

Surrey North Delta Leader

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