Current and past students of the Grade 4/5 class at Central Saanich’s Keating Elementary under the supervision of teacher Chris Lee (second from left) used their time after class on May 12 to further clean up Tetayut Creek. Their biggest claim was an old tank. Partially buried in mud, the students lift the tank out of the ground with several levers, including the one pictured. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Current and past students of the Grade 4/5 class at Central Saanich’s Keating Elementary under the supervision of teacher Chris Lee (second from left) used their time after class on May 12 to further clean up Tetayut Creek. Their biggest claim was an old tank. Partially buried in mud, the students lift the tank out of the ground with several levers, including the one pictured. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Central Saanich elementary students lift up environmental sins of the past

Keating Elementary School students get an education in environmental stewardship

The enthusiasm was palpable as a group of Central Saanich elementary students used their time after school to clean up a nearby ravine through which Tetayut Creek runs.

While the 20 or so students in Grade 4/5 at Keating Elementary School arrived at the creek as a group, they were soon spreading out across the area, sifting both banks for garbage hiding in overgrown grass and underneath low-hanging branches.

Unfortunately, it did not take them long to be successful, with many eager to show off their findings of various metallic objects and smashed glass to their teacher, Chris Lee, who eventually re-directed their energies to the main object of their excursion: a large cylindrical object, some five feet long and said to be an old tank.

Time had partially swallowed the tank into the muddy soil of a pit near the creek with water having corroded an elongated gash into its side.

Even without mud filling half of its interior, it likely would have taken a handful of adults considerable energy and effort to free the tank. Yet undeterred, the students found strength in numbers.

When initial efforts to lift the large rusted tank with their small hands covered in blue plastic gloves failed, they turned long wooden branches lying on the ground into levers and the occasion into an impromptu physics class with Lee demonstrating how they could amplify their leverage with the help of blocks.

RELATED: Saanich Peninsula elementary students help restock, clean up local creeks

Several levers broke along the way, but repeated failure eventually turned into gratifying success as the mud yielded its semi-buried garbage, prompting the students to roar with joy as if they had unearthed priceless treasure.

The students had first come across the garbage the week before as they were getting ready to release coho fry, having scouted the creek the day before the release.

Discovered items included a kitchen sink, scrap metal, car parts and a lawnmower, said Lee. “They were quite concerned and about four of them went down after school that day to try to clean up the creek,” she said.

After releasing the salmon, more students joined the cleanup effort.

Eventually, the entire class as well as a handful of Lee’s former students joined the effort.

While initially unaware of how the garbage ended up in the ravine, Lee later learned from a neighbour that the garbage along the creek has been present for decades. “He went on to tell me the story of a huge old house that used to be on the 10-acre property and the owner of the house was a repairman of sorts,” said Lee. “He would collect old machines and just dump them out back on his property.”

Current generations are now doing their bit to correct those past deeds.

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