Our educational experiences link students of all ages with scientists in ongoing research and monitoring work. Students learn scientific concepts by using tools and equipment in actual field experimentation while having fun exploring the St. Lawrence River ecosystem.
Interactive Science Workshops
River Institute offers interactive programs on a variety of topics for elementary, intermediate and secondary school groups to learn field and laboratory techniques with real biologists. Using the St. Lawrence River as a natural laboratory, we offer programs in English and in French at the River Institute, Cooper Marsh Conservation Area, the OPG St. Lawrence Power Development Centre, and the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Programs are designed to meet the goals of the Ontario Science Curriculum in geography, science, environmental science, chemistry and biology. Students learn sampling and analytical techniques used by environmental scientists as they become actively involved in river research while having fun. Workshops can be tailored to incorporate other topics on request and some workshops can be done in-class.
Aquatic Invertebrates Ecology
Students will have the opportunity to collect field samples as well as identify invertebrates using Ontario Benthos Biomonitoring Network (OBBN) protocols. Students will learn how to use D-nets and kick nets to sample benthic invertebrates, as well as practical lab skills including how to use a microscope, pipette, and dichotomous key.
Students will have the opportunity to collect field samples as well as identify local fish species. Students will use seine nets to catch fish, and learn fish processing skills including characteristics of different fish species, how to measure and weigh a fish, and how to record field notes.
Students will learn about local bat species and their habitat requirements, they will also learn about bat monitoring techniques including how to use a bat detector and how to set a mist net. Students will also be able to practice bat sampling techniques on our new fake bat specimens.
Students will have the opportunity to dig holes, sample river mud and learn about hand texturing – be ready to get dirty! Students will learn about how texture, colour, grain size and grain shape affect soils and their interactions with the environment.
Rocks and Minerals
This workshop explores how rocks and minerals are formed, and how to identify them. Students will have the opportunity to examine specimens and identify rocks and minerals using hardness test, acid test and more – geology rocks!
Coming Soon – Enquire for more details!
Water Quality Testing
Students will have the opportunity to collect samples and measure water characteristics including pH conductivity, turbidity and more! Students will learn about how water characteristics vary due to both environmental and human impact. Using probes and water test kits – they will determine the origin of several mystery water samples.
Fecal Coliform Testing
Students will have the opportunity to collect samples and test them for the presence of E. coli bacteria. Students will learn practical lab skills including how to light a Bunsen Burner, create a sterile field, use a filtration system, use a pipette, and how to plate and incubate bacteria.
Students will have the opportunity to take a nature hike to identify and press various local tree species. Students will learn some forestry basics including how to use calipers, clinometers and convex spherical densitometers.
Coming Soon – Enquire for more details!
Winter Tree ID
Students will have the opportunity to take a nature hike to identify local tree species in winter by looking at their branches and twigs. Students will learn some forestry basics including the parts of a tree, and how to use a dichotomous key.
Students will have the opportunity to walk through the marsh and identify local species. Students will learn how to use field guides and binoculars to identify the species in the marsh, they will learn the key characteristics used to identify species.
Students will have the opportunity to explore the pond and try to catch amphibians. Students will learn how to use nets to catch frogs, how to properly hold and identify frogs, how to identify turtles and learn about aquatic invertebrates.
This workshop explores pond life in your classroom. Students will have the opportunity to build a pond and catch aquatic invertebrates. Students will learn about the importance of ponds, how to identify aquatic invertebrates and how to use a microscope.
Human Genetics & DNA
Students will have the opportunity to sample their own DNA, amplify it using the PCR method and observe DNA bands in gel electrophoresis – let’s find out whodunit? Students will learn about DNA structure, properties and behaviour as well as applications of DNA technology.
This workshop explores geocaching and the outdoors. Students will have the opportunity to use a handheld GPS system to determine the location of hidden caches in a treasure hunt style game. Students will learn about different aspects of ecology through cache discovery.
The River Institute periodically offers basic training in the Ontario Benthos Biomonitoring Network. This tool allows for monitoring of aquatic invertebrates in lakes, streams and wetlands to evaluate ecosystem health.
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Environmental Technician Program
The River Institute is partnered with St. Lawrence College to offer the Environmental Technician Program. Students have the opportunity to work hands on in the field and the lab alongside River Institute Scientists throughout their 2–year degree.
Biologist, Education Coordinator
+1 613-936-6620 ext 232