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Student Action- The Evolution of a Community Project

 

The Arundel Science Centre, at its inception, in1960, was the brain child of Melvin Graham who was then the principal of the Arundel School, which had students from grades one through ten. He was concerned with providing the older students, in particular, with an experiential science education that took advantage of their rural environment.

Between 1960 and 1970, Melvin involved both the School and Arundel communities in a project that resulted in the building of a science and conservation Centre, the purchase and management of two farms, converting the barns and log cabin into dorms, establishing the Rouge Valley Association for the planting of trees and the installation of a state-of-the-art maple syrup operation.

Many individuals and companies were involved in the creation of what is now known as the Arundel Nature and Science Centre. It all began in 1961, with the purchase of the old Swail family farm by the Canadian International Paper Company (CIP) who, in turn, donated the property to the Arundel School to serve as a school community educational project. Initially C.I.P. had intended it to be deeded to the Students’ Council, but, ultimately the local Arundel Board assumed responsibility for the property while its management was left in the hands of Arundel School.

During the first stage of the project’s development, with the help of Manley Wilson, the manager of C.I.P. at Harrington, technicians came to teach the students and parents of the Arundel School about tree planting and conservation. This culminated in a successful science fair, through which the public became involved in the reforestation of the land.

Jaap Salm, superintendent at CIP, Harrington, gave his time to survey trails, act as a consultant and educator, and even conduct field trips for teachers and students helping to apply classroom study to the Farm woodlot. There is a plaque at the tree farm that commemorates and honours him for his dedication to reforesting the abandoned farmland and recognizing the integral role of education and student involvement.

The Department of Lands and Forests was also approached to provide expertise on the planting of seedlings. The Rouge Valley Association was started to disseminate trees throughout the area, with impressive results, reflected in the verdant forests on the present-day property. Each year trees were planted on the school farm land. Many schools in the Laurentian and Montreal areas were involved. The trees were labeled as they were planted and former students still come to monitor the trees they planted years ago. At least 40 000 trees were planted by grade 6-19 students by hand and small machines.

The next step, in 1962, was to develop the 800-tree maple forest as a source of revenue. The students, through tremendous fundraising efforts, paid for the sugar shack and a second-hand evaporator. The 3M company set up a modern pipeline, which is still in use today.

A committee was then formed in the community that was able to raise 10,000$ to build the Science/Conservation Centre in 1964. The members of this committee were Mel Graham, Stuart (Buster) Cooke, Coral Swail, John Macaulay, Henry Williams and Jim Breckenridge. Donations of work from local electricians and plumbers, Mel himself and students made the building possible. A carpenter was hired for the summer. The steel beams were donated by the Canadian Refractories mining company in Kilmar.

Local students were involved in much of the work. They helped cut 1000m of logs for the Centre’s construction, they cleared the forest, collected wood for the maple syrup operation, demolished buildings, repaired fences, helped construct buildings, sold cedar logs to make posts and rails, etc. They were joined by many local volunteers.

The whole operation, then known as The Tree Farm, eventually came under the control of the Laurentian School Board. It was also supported for a time by the P.S.B.G.M. and the North Island Regional School Board (including Laurenval and Laval School Boards).

The Centre was also backed by the Lower Ottawa Forest Protective Association Ltd. which provided fire inspectors and flying fire fighters in helicopters. The manager, "Bud" Irving, even arranged to have fire-fighting displays and helicopter rides available at an annual fair held at the tree farm.

Throughout the decade, the ANSC/Tree Farm became increasingly popular, with student groups from the Laurentian School Board visiting, free of charge, regularly throughout the school year; a policy which continues to this day within what is now the Sir Wilfred School Board.

When more land was needed, in 1970, the Laurentian School Board was persuaded to buy the adjacent farm property, namely the Smith family homestead (circa 1875). The Department of Lands and Forests provided Mel with twelve students for the summer months to do the necessary renovations. Even food, materials and transportation from Lachute were included. The barns and house were converted into the dorms, rooms and kitchens that are still in use to this day. The students’ work project extended from a couple of month to more than a year! They even helped develop the trails, forest teaching stations and camping areas.

 

In 1967 Mel Graham became the official Director of the Arundel Natural Science School. He provided educational services and managed the site. Food services were available when requested and provided by local citizens. Mr. Graham retired in 1976 and a trail recognizing his contribution to the ANSC was inaugurated in 2002.

 

The ANSC, with its recently modified title of Arundel Nature AND Science Centre, to reflect its expanding educational programming, is presently owned and managed by the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board and by the Arundel Tree Farm Foundation.