Life Sciences – The Forest as our Classroom

In our place-based curriculum, students immerse themselves in the life sciences, drawing insights from the island’s ecology. Through deep ecology, citizen science, and local exploration, Cortes Island’s forests become our classroom. Students will explore the diverse flora and fauna that shape the island ecosystems. Along the journey, local scientists from Hakai Institute, UBC Mother Tree Project, and community knowledge holders generously impart their expertise, assisting students in actively engaging in ongoing science initiatives.

The culmination of our life science course is showcased in the place-based field guides crafted by our students throughout the block. Take a look at them below!


Field Guides

Students created place-based field guides about ecological communities of their choosing. Throughout our backcountry trips and field work students had the opportunity to find, photograph, draw, and research the species for their field guides.

Check out the student made field guides below!

Crustaceans Of The Discovery Islands- Jasmine Harvey
My Biodiverse Home- Coralie
Ants of Cortes Island - Luis Dietz
Ocean Mammals of Cortes Island- Rowan Joiner
Medicinal Plants of the Discovery Islands- Salix Webb
Wild Teas of Cortes Island - Samara Gibbs-Reed
Birds of Prey of Cortes Island- Alora Levesque
Plants of Bogs and Wetlands of the Discovery Islands- Dylan Harvey
Medicinal Plants for the Outdoorsman- Ro Large
Reptiles and Amphibians of the Discovery Islands- Jack Large
Edible Berries of Cortes Island- Zella Aufochs
Mushrooms of Cortes Island- Sophie Hermann
Mosses and Lichens of Cortes - Sonia Schmidt
Birds of Cortes- Jonas Korber
Predators of Cortes- Niamh Levesque
Trees of Cortes- Lee Nagle
Ferns of Cortes Island- Fergus Walker
Trees of Cortes- Khalil Biela

Science Communication Reels 

While at the Hakai Institute, students engaged in small group research, employing the scientific process to enhance our understanding. Our exploration also included lessons on effectively communicating scientific concepts. These short reels provide us with an opportunity to witness the application of the scientific method and showcase the research undertaken by the students. Watch them below!

Field Trip to the Hakai Institute 

Cortes Island Academy spend a week at the Hakai Institute on Quadra Island. The Hakai institute conducts long term scientific research in the remote margins of British Columbia. Our class was very lucky to spend a week with the incredible folks at the Hakai institute. The Hakai scientists led students in field work, data analysis, data visualization, presentations, and lab work! 

Ayajuthem Plant signs

The Klahoose First Nation, Children’s Forest Trust, and Cortes Island Academy recently collaborated on an exciting Coast Salish language project. Klahoose elder and language teacher Jessie Louie met students in the Children’s Forest to share traditions and stories about forest plants, past and present, and teach Ayajuthem plant names. Using Ayajuthem ethnography, the students created interpretive signs for plants along the “School-to-Sea” trail by the Cortes School (School District 72).

The Cortes Island Academy extends deep gratitude to Jessie Louie for her generosity and knowledge-sharing. Emote!

“The language project was very valuable for the students as it was an opportunity for them to engage with indigenous ways of knowing and it brought a valuable lens to our science course.”– Tosh Harvey, Children’s Forest alumnus and co-facilitator of Life Science curriculum at CIA

iNaturalist Biodiversity Project 

Check out the student’s iNaturalist biodiversity project from their outdoor adventure leadership course. Students found and photographed hundreds of observations while in the field throughout the five week course. Once back in the classroom students worked together to identify and upload their observations. This process fostered a sense of community and curiosity for the ecosystems around us. Through familiarizing ourselves with the local flora and fauna, we cultivated deeper connections and understanding of place.

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