Welcome home: Daycares, schools release ducks into Memorial Gardens pond

A student from King George school releases a duck into the Memorial Gardens pond as part of the annual duck release. -- Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald

Kendall Pitt loves how ducks swim.

The four-year-old got to see how ducklings wiggled their feet as they swam in a swimming pool at school. She even demonstrated, quickly moving her feet as she ran around in the grass.

“They swim like this,” she said, showing how they say “quack, quack” as they move.

Pitt’s Pre-Kindergarten class at John Diefenbaker school was one of many gathered at Memorial Gardens for the annual duck release.

Students from Spruce Home school pose with the two ducks they raised prior to letting them go in the Memorial Gardens pond. — Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald

Each year, the cemetery staff drop off two ducklings to schools and daycares to care for. About a month later, they let them go in the pond.

John Diefenbaker’s ducks are named Cutie Pie and Rainbow.

Pitt’s teacher, Melissa Taylor, said the process was a learning experience in many different subjects.

This included math, being able to compare the growth of the ducklings in the past and present. They also incorporated literature by journaling.

“The biggest subject we hit was science because you’re seeing nature in real life, right in front of you. You’re getting to see the life cycle,” she explained.

“They even get to see the ecosystem or the habitat that the ducks are going to be living in.”

Schools and daycares raise the ducklings for about a month before releasing them. — Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald

Taylor said it also taught them responsibility.

“The kids got to hold them and snuggle them. They knew that when they quacked, that meant that they were either thirsty or hungry. It was great for the kids,” she said.

This was Taylor’s first year overseeing the care of the ducklings, but another teacher took on the job for the previous nine years.

Spruce Home Public School also raised and released two ducks. This is its second year being involved, according to caretaker Sheri Chester.

“The little ones absolutely love spending the time with them and laying with them on the floor as they walk around, even cleaning up after them,” she said.

“I think everybody should take part in this at least once.”

Chester said students got to take turns bringing the ducks home overnight. But what they really look forward to is releasing them once they’re fully grown, she said.

“They are amazing, how quickly they grow. It’s like every day you go in and you’re like ‘Oh my goodness, they’re bigger than the box now. We’ve got to get a bigger box.’”

This year, there were 22 ducks released into the Memorial Gardens pond. — Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald

Austin Atchison, who’s with Memorial Gardens, said the duck launch has taken place for the last 25 years, minus the years when COVID-19 restrictions were in place.

“The duck launch is not only a fun event for our children, but it also instills in them a deep sense of compassion and responsibility towards nature,” he said in a news release.

Don Cody, who also works at Memorial Gardens and organizes the event, was unable to attend the release. Last month, when he dropped the ducklings off with the students, he said it’s also beneficial for the cemetery.

“It’s just a way of showing that public that, really, it’s not the most scary place,” he said.

Others schools and daycares that participated included King George, St. Michael, Hope’s Home and the family resource centre.

Atchison said staff from Riverpark Funeral Home and Gray’s Funeral Chapel also helped put on the event.