Roots are the claws that hold the earth in place

Waterside tree planting is important both to the local waterways and the people who live adjacent to them. Tree roots hold onto soil, preventing unnatural amounts of sand and dirt from entering the water systems, which can have a negative impact downstream and damage aquatic ecosystems. Trees provide organic material and habitats for animals, and their shade acts as a temperature monitor for aquatic wildlife.

Trees and other natural vegetation create a buffer between land use and natural habitats. They also benefit us by reducing the impact of flooding, a trend which is becoming more commonplace due to the pressures of climate change.

Riparian buffer zonesImage: A cross-section of a stream and the adjacent riparian area. The sketch shows four zones and the vegetation associated with each. Moving from the water to the upland, the first zone is the aquatic zone and is populated with aquatic plants such as sedges and reeds. The next zone, Zone 1, is an undisturbed forest. Zone 2 is a managed forest of shrubs and trees and Zone 3 is a mix of grasses that help control runoff from neighbouring fields.

(Image courtesy Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)


Youth using hands-on science education to improve the health of their land

Water First education programs engage Indigenous youth with hands-on water science workshops. We also get youth out on the land, completing environmental restoration projects of local significance and reinforcing the concepts taught in workshops.

In the classroom, using interactive watershed models, microscopes, water science lab equipment and inquiry-driven activities, students learn about hydrology and watershed ecology. Out on traditional lands, students plant seedlings and complete stream-side restoration action to improve the overall health of their community’s watershed.

During the infield activities, students are accompanied by Elders who share the cultural and historical significance of the land, and the importance of maintaining the health of the community’s watersheds and fish habitats. Supporting linkages between today’s youth and traditional land use practices of the past.

Water First science education in the past three years:

  • We’ve been to 21 First Nations communities.
  • Thousands of students reached from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12.

Latest News

Working with students from G Theberge School in Témiscaming, Québec

Last week from March 19th-21st, Water First staff and our interns from Kebaowek First Nation visited G Theberge School in Témiscaming, Québec, to share the details from our recently completed fish habitat remediation project with students. Children and youth from Kebaowek First Nation are bused to this school, so it … Read More

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Saugeen First Nation students find satisfaction in a project well done

On a fall day in Saugeen First Nation, students were struggling with some more-challenging-than-usual planting conditions. After completing science workshops the day before at their school, these Grade 7 and 8 youth were excited to put their new knowledge to practice by planting a combination of 450 white spruce, white … Read More

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Water Tree at Matachewan First Nation

This past October, Water First collaborated with Matachewan First Nation to deliver a series of educational workshops at the local school and a tree-planting field trip in the community.

Students in the Indigenous program at Kirkland Lake District Composite school joined those from the First Nation to plant pine and … Read More

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Taking our educational resources to the next level

In the next year, Water First will be meeting with community partners, educators and Elders to gather guidance and expand our program. Our focus is on maximizing First Nations youth involvement in the projects — from the planning stages all the way to implementing sustainable action. As well as developing more and different restoration opportunities that can better meet local environmental concerns.

Continually adapting our programs is a Water First strength. Our approach and the flexibility in our educational programming allows Water First to deliver meaningful hands-on water science education and restoration action that is of significance to youth and their communities.

  • Water First…and always! We believe healthy water creates healthy communities and engaging youth to be agents of change and future community water leaders, is worth every drop!

    Reggie Tikka,

    LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics

Watch for more updates throughout the year as we develop and pilot this new program!

The Communities

Click on an icon to learn a bit about Water Tree activities in that community.

The Staff

  • Jag Saini, B.Eng., E.I.T., O.I.T.

    Project Manager & Instructor

  • Jag has a background in chemical and environmental engineering and has experience with mining and environmental projects. Jag’s experience with cross-cultural work environments, including First Nations, together with his Operator-in-Training designation and volunteerism with Professional Engineers Ontario, position him to make valuable contributions to Water First’s work.… Read More

  • Dillon Koopmans, B. Ed., OCT

    Educational Programs Manager

  • Dillon holds Bachelor degrees in Geography and Education and has significant teaching experience in the junior, intermediate and senior divisions. He is also engaged as a teacher facilitator in several youth leadership courses, including Indigenous Leadership Gatherings, at the Ontario Educational Leadership Centre. Dillon is of Potawatomi descent with ancestral … Read More

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