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Our Programs

BARC Education & Volunteer Programs

BARC provides free relevant, impactful, and engaging water-focused educational and volunteer programming within the Hamilton Harbour watershed.

Educational Programs

Are you a Teacher or Group Leader? Teachers and group leaders can learn more about our curriculum-linked programs at our Teacher/Group Guide.

Classroom Mini Marsh

Classroom Mini Marsh gives students an up-close look at how marsh ecosystems thrive in Hamilton!

Each year, hundreds of teachers register their class to receive one of BARC’s Mini Marsh Kits with native plants, soil and a snail (yes, a snail!).

After a few months, the kits are returned to BARC to be planted into Cootes Paradise Marsh as part of the restoration efforts.

Not only does this program provide students with hands-on experience taking care of an ecosystem, but the program has a direct link to the restoration of Hamilton Harbour.

Teachers are also provided with curriculum-linked resources to engage their students in discussions about the harbour, marshes as well as environmental issues. 

Stream Scientists

Stream Scientists is an in-person program delivered to schools located within the Hamilton Harbour Watershed.

This program explores different aquatic insects that live in Hamilton’s water bodies and dives into the environmental issues that are currently affecting them.

Younger classes engage in a craft activity while the older classes examine real insect specimens.


Ribbit is an in-person program delivered to schools located within the Hamilton Harbour Watershed.

This program explores the different frogs that live in Hamilton and discusses why frogs are important species in our local wetlands.

Students will learn about different frog calls, frog adaptations as well as how to protect frogs in our local communities.

Turtle Crossing

Turtle Crossing is an in-person program delivered to schools located within the Hamilton Harbour Watershed.

This program explores Ontario’s freshwater turtles and the main threats facing the turtle populations.

Students will learn about different types of turtles as well as how to protect them locally.

Students will also engage in a clay-making craft where they will create their own freshwater turtle.

Home to Harbour

Home to Harbour is an in-person program delivered to schools located within the Hamilton Harbour Watershed.

This program explores the current issues facing Hamilton Harbour, with a focus on invasive species and stormwater runoff.

Students will engage with BARC’s EnviroScape model to understand the causes and implications of stormwater runoff and how it applies to their own city.

Finally, students will learn about different projects in Hamilton that aim to mitigate the impacts of invasive species and stormwater runoff.

Water School

Water School is a week-long program designed to teach students about the issues facing the Hamilton Harbour watershed.

The program takes students out into the field where they will test a local waterway using practical water testing equipment.

By testing the water, students will learn about real-world environmental issues that impact water quality.

This program is only offered to high school students, and participating schools must have a local waterbody within a 15-minute walking distance of their school. 

Stream of Dreams™

Stream of Dreams™ focuses on the importance of keeping our local streams clean to protect our freshwater wildlife.

This program is usually 1-week long, as BARC delivers a presentation and assists the school with coordinating the painting of wooden fish.

All fish are hung on the school’s fence as a reminder to the community to protect our local streams from harmful pollutants. 

Yellow Fish Road™

Yellow Fish Road™ creates community awareness about the impact of household hazardous waste.

Students mark storm drains with painted fish symbols around their school and the local neighbourhood!

Volunteer Programs

Interested in Volunteering? Visit the Volunteer with BARC page for more info about the many volunteer opportunities available.

Community Water Leaders

Activity Level: Moderate

Community Water Leaders is an 8-week program for students, young professionals, and community members aged 18+ to network and gain practical experience collecting water quality data. Participants are supplied with a take-home Water Rangers kit for water testing. Please note that testing is done on your own time, in partnership with other program members.

In addition to water testing, Community Water Leaders meet weekly for workshops about local water issues. These events feature guest speakers as well as sessions hosted by BARC staff, and take place in different locations throughout the Hamilton Harbour watershed. Past guest speakers have included staff and researchers from the City of Hamilton, McMaster University, Hamilton Oshawa Port Authority, Royal Botanical Gardens, and more!

Community Water Leader runs in the fall. Our next round of applications will begin in fall of 2024.



Marsh Volunteer Plantings

Activity Level: Moderate to High

Join BARC and Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) in replanting Cootes Paradise Marsh! 

At our summer Marsh Volunteer Planting events, community volunteers strap on boots or chest waders and head into Cootes Paradise Marsh to plant native marsh plants. The plants provide food and habitat for wildlife and improve water quality by stabilizing soil and reducing erosion.

Planting sites are located in a wetland environment and the terrain can be rugged and difficult to navigate. Please consider your own physical fitness level and medical history to decide if this activity is right for you. Be aware that planting can get very muddy – it is messy but rewarding work!

BARC provides rubber boots, hip waders, or chest waders depending on site requirements. Due to limited supplies, we can not guarantee your exact size. We also provide light refreshments. 

Due to the nature and location of the planting sites, these events are not suitable for children. You must be at least 16 years old to participate. An adult guardian must sign a waiver for anyone under 18.

Litter Clean-ups

Activity Level: Varies from gentle to high

Help us tackle trash! At our Litter Clean-up events, BARC staff and volunteers work together to collect and remove coffee cups, cigarette butts, and other litter from the environment before it ends up in our watershed.

BARC provides gloves, garbage bags, garbage grabbers, and some light refreshments for participants. We advise volunteers to bring a filled reusable water bottle and dress appropriately for the outdoors. Clean-up sites are located in various locations within the Hamilton Harbour watershed, and the terrain can change from flat to rugged. Please consider the location of the clean-up as well as your own physical fitness level and medical history to decide if this activity is right for you.


Support BARC

For more than 30 years, the Bay Area Restoration Council has played a pivotal role in helping the community see the potential of a Harbour where nature can thrive.

Your support helps BARC connect the people of Hamilton and surrounding areas to the water at their doorstep.