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  • Steve Millar

Forming A Better Understanding of the Waters of the Bay of Fundy Bay

Forming a Better Understanding of the Waters of the Bay of Fundy

The students in the grade 10 Pre-IB Geography class and grade 11 IB Geography class at Horton High School studied the waters of the Bay of Fundy last spring. Students constructed two drifters and decorated the sails with the logos of the various groups involved in its creation.

Mr. Millar was able to drop off the drifters with a lobster boat captain who anchors in Harbourville, Nova Scotia, and he was able to deploy the drifters just off the waters of Isle Haute. This would allow students to see how the water moved within the bay and possibly make predictions regarding what might be found on the beaches in the area.

Students followed the movement of the drifters online as the tides pushed and pulled it into and out of the mouth of the Minas Basin via the satellite transmitter mounted on the top of the drifter. Here is a link ( to the route of the two drifters (and another drifter launched with a different school group off of the Southwestern tip of Nova Scotia).

Students saw how the dramatic tides of the Bay of Fundy impact the movement of water (and possible debris) in the area and how fast the water must move around Cape Split and the mouth of the Minas Channel (near where the new FORCE tidal power generation site is located). Grade 11 student, Grace Munro commented that “the drifters indicated that the waters were circulated relatively close to the shore and stayed within the Bay of Fundy because the drifters didn't leave the bay, they just circulated within it.”

Grade 11 student, Elena Thompson-Hayes mentioned that “the drifters got caught in certain places and moved along the same lines for a long time, which tells us that the tides are strong and oscillate back and forth.”

With this knowledge in mind, students were asked to predict what kinds of garbage they predicted to find on the beaches in the area. Presented with the choices of “residential, commercial, industrial or recreational,” students predicted that residential forms of garbage would be the most likely types of garbage recovered from the beach.

On a grey day in June, the students of both classes arrived on the southern shore of the Bay of Fundy near Harbourville, Nova Scotia to do a beach clean up.

While the rocky beach appeared mostly clean at first glance, a closer inspection of the high water line near the trees revealed a truck load of garbage that the students proceeded to remove from the beach. Student Aidan Karcha observed “there was plenty of fishing gear such as ropes and some cages that if dropped into the Bay of Fundy wouldn't be flushed out into the ocean but instead held in the waters of the bay until they wash up on shore.”

Some of the garbage was just sitting on the surface of the beach but a fair amount had to be dug up collected for removal by placing it by the side of the road for pick up by King's County waste removal services. The variety of garbage was broad but the bulk of the garbage was related to the fishing industry operating in the bay.

In the end, students collected enough garbage to fill the back of the truck sent from the county for pick up. The students then had an hour looking into the tidal pools revealed at low tide searching for various kinds of aquatic life. Overall, the classes had fun, developed a better understanding of the Bay of Fundy, and did a great job cleaning up one of their local beaches.


Steve Millar has taught for close to 20 years in Nova Scotia and Ontario in grades K-12. Currently he teaches Global Geography 12, Pre-IB Geography 10, IB Geography 11 and IB Geography 12 at Horton High School, in Greenwich, Nova Scotia. Steve is a member of Gulf of Maine Institute’s "Learning 2 Steward The Gulf Project.” The Project connects Canadian teachers from the Annapolis Valley (near the Bay of Fundy) and American teachers from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Steve is a life-long learner and loves educating youth. He has also worked as a first aid instructor, and an officer and Cadet Instructor, with the Canadian Forces Cadet Instructor Cadre, teaching Canada's youth. He received his MEd from Mount Saint Vincent University, his BEd from the University of Toronto, and his BSc in Geography and Environmental and Resource Studies from Trent University.

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