“Ranger! Ranger!” children exclaim excitedly as they circle around a tree trunk, hidden on the forest floor. The park ranger runs over, stoops over to inspect the tree trunk and patiently explains the differences between different types of tree moss, tree growth patterns and local tree species.
This image is not what you normally associate with the City of Edmonton’s uniformed peace officers who generally enforce city bylaws and provincial statutes. However, peace officers are active in educating the public about the city’s bylaws and help to create awareness of how to keep our communities safe, healthy and clean.
In early May, our park rangers were out n’ about in our community — educating children about their roles as peace officers, trees and forests, and co-existing with our wildlife neighbours. The wildlife team, including Gareth Villanueva, Ryan Smar and Josh Bonogofski, were invited to lead five classes of grade 4 – 6 students on forest and wetlands nature walks at St. Thomas Aquinas school. The walks were aligned with the students’ science curriculum to encourage them to directly investigate and discover their natural surroundings.
The Sierra Club Foundation, a City partner and a free nature enrichment program that teaches children to interact with their environment through free play and nature walks, played a “camouflage” game with the children. Students used their “wildlife instincts” to hide from the “robin” who had to spot them, as they hid against the trees– the best game of hide-and-seek ever!
The day was a blast for the students who found, right in their own backyard, an inactive coyote den, animal bones (the school used to be a farm) and a magpie bird nest! They also learned the difference between different types of moss, fungi and trees, and how to tell the age of a tree based on the rings on its bark.
“We are thrilled when we get the opportunity to get involved with students and schools like this,” says John Simmons, Director of the Community Standards Peace Officer section. “We do a lot of engagement with citizens, schools and businesses. We believe that these initiatives build positive relationships with the community and contribute to responsible behaviours in the long run.”
When you think of peace officers, images of nameless faces in uniforms issuing tickets come to mind. However, when they are not enforcing bylaws, our peace officers create the time to engage with citizens, schools, neighbours and businesses to keep our urban spaces clean, safe and livable.
To learn more about the role of peace officers in our city and what they do to benefit our communities, visit our website.