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My favourite environmental children’s books

By Sierra Club BC Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore

February 2017

One of my favorite things to do with a class is to read them a story. I use stories as a way to introduce myself and to share an important key message about nature and our connection as people to nature. Stories enable children to get hooked and become engaged in a program.

This month I would like to share with you three storybooks that I read in my workshops to spark nature connection. These stories help share a message about sustainability, local ecosystems and the importance of environmental stewardship.

 

“The Tree in the Ancient Forest” written by Carol Reed-Jones and illustrated by Christopher Canyon is a beautiful story about the interdependence of the plants and animals that live in old-growth forests. Students are reminded of their own dependence upon nature and the importance of preserving and respecting living things.

I have a lot of fun reading this story because of its rhyming and repetitive word patterns. It allows the students to join in the story and follow along in a fun and interactive way. I highly recommend this book to any classes that are learning about relationships between species in their local ecosystem.

 

 

 

“The Little Hummingbird” written by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is an Indigenous story about a little hummingbird that is doing its best to take care of its home. Children love this story because it is so simple and leaves them feeling empowered. They understand that more than likely the little hummingbird was probably not able to put out the fire alone, but the fact that little hummingbird did something at all is what is most important.

Children feel a strong connection to animals and compassion for them. They see themselves in this story as the little hummingbird and wonder what they would have done in this situation. I always ask them what they believe the lesson is from the little hummingbird and they come back with the same answer every time: “it doesn’t matter your size, we all can make an impact, so always do your best to protect your home.” I recommend this story to anyone who needs a simple reminder of the importance of always doing your part to protect the environment.

 

 

“Wild Berries” written and illustrated by Julie Flett is a lovely Cree storybook about a grandmother and grandson going out to pick wild blueberries. This story really ties in well with our “Going Wild! People & Plants” program. The key message delivered in this book is about sustainability. It reminds us of those special moments when we truly make a connection out in nature.

While the story takes you on a small journey about going out to pick wild berries, it really draws on the connections that are developed over time between people and the land.  Students are able to easily relate to the story because it is simple and clear about how they too can make connections with all living things in nature. I highly recommend this story to everyone who loves picking and eating wild berries.

Here are some more of my favourite environmental children’s books:

Eagle’s Reflection and other Northwest Coast Stories by Robert James Challenger

The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer

West Coast Wild: A Nature Alphabet by Deborah Hodge

Explorers of the Wild by Cale Atkinson

From the Mountains to the Sea We Share the Seasons by Brenda Boreham and Terri Mack

Nowhere Else on Earth: Standing Tall for the Great Bear Rainforest by Caitlyn Vernon

Why Our Children Need to Get Outside and Engage with Nature

By Guest Contributor Louise Pedersen

December 2016

Children spend less and less time in contact with the natural world and this is having a huge impact on their health and development.

Since the 1970s, there has been a vast accumulation of evidence to support the critical importance of nature for human health and well-being. Access to nature results in positive physical and mental health outcomes, enhanced attention and learning, and social and emotional well-being. Time in nature buffers the stress of fast-paced urban life and builds emotional resilience.

Sierra Club BC Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore exploring nature with Ecole Poirier students.

Evidence of the benefits of access to nature applies to people of all ages and at all stages of life. However, time in nature as a child is particularly important. It contributes positively to development of the whole child and lays the foundation for future health and emotional well-being as well as a lifelong connection to the natural world.

Early, sustained in-nature experiences are also predictive of future support of conservation and environmentally responsible choices. Thus childhood time in nature is critical both for human health and the health of the planet.

There is a well-developed body of knowledge of the many benefits of time spent in nature. The consequences of not having a nature-rich life is also well documented and reached the mainstream over a decade ago in Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.

It is somewhat surprising then that this generation of children spends significantly less time in nature than their parents did. Canadian children are increasingly sedentary, spending an average of 6-7 hours per day engaged in screen-based, solitary activities (2011 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card) and less than one hour outside (David Suzuki Foundation). This troubling trend is affecting children’s connection to the natural world as well as their ability to learn, their social development and their health. This issue is multifaceted and complex: urbanization, the seductive lure of technology, and an increasingly risk-averse and litigious culture are all contributors.

NatureKids BC (formerly the Young Naturalists’ Club of BC Society) is a grassroots registered charity that helps children get outdoors to explore, play, learn about and take action for nature. Like Sierra Club BC, NatureKids is working to change the trend away from nature engagement, primarily through levers of access and opportunity.

We do this through an award-winning network of volunteer-led Family Nature Clubs that extends across BC. Together with our volunteer club leaders, nature mentors and donors, we share a vision of working together to help children develop a love of nature and a lifelong connection to the natural world while building environmental literacy and skills that will enable them to take action for nature.

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern saw-whet owl

Thousands of children have participated in the NatureKids BC program since its inception in 2000. Program Alumni tell us their experiences with NatureKids BC helped embed in them a love of the natural world and a desire to protect it. NatureKids BC members have gone on to restore bogs, raise salmon fry, conduct humpback whale research, and share the wonder of the natural world with others.

Last year alone, we helped 1500+ children enjoy 4700 outdoor nature experiences across BC. And this is important because we now know that children need nature.

NatureKids BC publishes NatureWILD Magazine for kids. It’s the only magazine written about BC wildlife and ecosystems for elementary-aged youth. Each issue features fun and informative articles written by top BC naturalists and biologists, stories about children taking action for the environment, easy-to-read stories, and much more.

Through a School Membership, Teachers receive NatureWILD three times a year. Each issue comes with an accompanying Curriculum Guide linking it to the BC curriculum and helping teachers meet crosscurricular learning outcomes. NatureKids BC School Membership supports teachers in their efforts to incorporate place-based learning into the classroom and nature into the school community. It helps teachers address the big ideas and core curricular competencies for science, as well as other subjects such as math and language arts.

Learn more at NatureKids BC.

INSIDE AND OUT: 10 EASY ACTIVITIES TO HELP CONNECT KIDS TO NATURE

By Kirsten Dallimore

Whether you’re a parent looking for March break activities or a teacher looking for tips and tools for getting your class outside, the following activities will help you get your kids playing and learning in nature.

Bring nature inside

Collect pine cones, sea shells, rocks, sticks, leaves. Bring them inside and make a nature station that you can add to throughout the seasons. Encourage your students or children to share something they found during their weekend adventures.

Plant something in a garden or small pot

Buy one bag of soil, one package of seeds and get (or ask your students bring in) one yoghurt or margarine container. Everyone can plant seeds and grow things such as beans, edible greens or wild flowers. Seeing something that you have grown yourself really helps to connect you to life.

Build a natural playground

Set aside a space in your school yard or backyard that will become all natural. Start off by gathering small logs for children to sit on, stones to step across and sand to dig in. Eventually you might be able to plant some native bushes and trees to help identify this naturalized space. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but kids will gain a sense of accomplishment and pride if they have been a part of building something unique and special on their school grounds or at their friends’ or family’s home.

Create a nature scavenger hunt together

First get the students to walk around the school yard (or your children to walk around your backyard or a nearby park) to do a survey of what they might be able to find related to nature during that season. If you’re a teacher, ask students to work together in small groups or together as a class to design a scavenger hunt. If you’re a parent, think about getting together with other families in your area. The best thing to do is team up with another class,group, or family and then switch scavenger hunts to complete them.

Paint a big mural or draw a picture outside on a sunny day

Pack up the markers, crayons and paint and head outside to do your art work. Let the kids be inspired by what they see in nature!

Collect shovels, trowels, buckets and take them outside

Use these tools to dig in the soil and look for worms, water the plants and trees at your school or in your neighbourhood, transport soil and dig in the dirt. If you’re a teacher, prepare the students the day before and they will be happy and well prepared to get dirty!

Get a set of magnify glasses

If everyone has their own magnify glass you can all go on an adventure and get up close to what is living and happening out there.

Storytelling

Make it a daily occurrence to share a story about nature. You can even go outside with your students or children and read or tell them a story about having an adventure in nature. Kids always want to learn more and share facts about their favorite animal or camping adventure, so get them to share their stories as well.

Go for a picnic

Taking your class or family on an adventure to a special location and eating together outside will allow the kids to have positive and memorable experience outdoors. You may choose to do it for snack time!

Go on an imaginary nature safari in your classroom or home

Tell the kidss to imagine the space is a forest or jungle and that that they are going on a nature hike called a safari through this jungle. They need to listen very carefully to what they need to pack, what they will see along the way and what they will do while they are all together on this safari. You can tell them to start off by packing a backpack and then list off what they need to pack such as binoculars, t-shirt, shorts, rain jacket, hat and sunscreen. Kids will act out the actions while imagine they are really packing their backpacks for this trip.

You can start the safari by having everyone line up behind you. Once everyone is lined up you can start by going for a walk around the space. As you travel around,with each step or two imagine you are seeing and experiencing something new and different. Share with them things like “Look over to your right, there is a small bear cub with his mother,” and ask them if they see it? “Next we will all take turns climbing this big cedar tree and swing on a rope across the river.”  “Watch your step here as we wade through the water, try not to fall over.” “I see salmon swimming in this river.” “How many salmon do you see?” “Let’s get our binoculars out and look for birds up in the trees.”

Give children opportunities to point things out along the way as well. The teacher or parent is the guide, but as they start to use their imaginations more and connect with nature, all of a sudden you might come across something that only a child has spotted. Finish the safari by coming back to where you all started and unpacking your backpack.

Conclude this activity by sharing experiences from the safari and asking prompting questions such as what did you see? How did you feel when we went through the river? How tall do you think the cedar tree was? Why do you think we want to protect the animals and trees in the rainforest?

 Check out our New Climate Toolkit for Teachers

Although talking to young people about climate change can be challenging, preparing them to work towards solutions is an important part of their education.

With this in mind, our education team has developed a new teaching resource. Creating a Better Climate Future for B.C.: A Teaching Toolkit for Grades 6-8, outlines ten steps B.C. can take towards a safe and healthy future.

The toolkit was inspired by our new report The Future is Here, Sierra Club BC’s vision for a better climate future for B.C.

SCBC's Kirsten Dallimore teaching at Willows Elementary.

SCBC’s Kirsten Dallimore teaching at Willows Elementary. Photo Credit: K. Zolotas

We’ve created 10 infographics to explain the 10 steps and put together sample lesson plans and activities to accompany each infographic. Together the infographics and suggested lesson plans could constitute a whole unit on climate change and how we can build a better climate future together.

We wrote this toolkit with students in grades six to eight in mind. However, we also feel that many, if not all, of the activities can be adapted both for lower and higher grade levels.

Check out our range of teaching resources and we encourage you to share this new resource with educators you know.

 

 

Teaching and Learning with Sierra Club BC’s School Programs

By Kirsten Dallimore

I’m the environmental educator for the K-8 programs here at Sierra Club BC. One of the best parts of my job is travelling around the province delivering our school programs in communities around B.C. Since September, I have visited over 75 classrooms.

Each class brings their own unique set of perspectives to the program I deliver which keeps my job as a teacher varied and exciting. This past week, I traveled to Bowen Island where most of the students spend a lot of time outdoors with their families. These students have fallen in love with nature in their home place and they do not want to see it disappear.
We spent some time outdoors where I had the students racing around their schoolyard and local forest finding various living species and habitats in order to complete a scavenger hunt on biodiversity. Having a fun interaction with local species offer students the opportunity to connect with nature. Those moments of connection can provide a sense of empowerment that “I can be a part of protecting nature.”

As we all looked up to find the tallest cedars, dug into the soil to find the earth worms and touched the roughest tree bark we could find, I watched the students deepen their understanding that they are each connected to all the living things they were experiencing.

The students’ concerns about the environment really focused on how the wildlife in the area is being impacted by climate change. Each student brought energy to the discussion about the personal impacts they make on the environment in their daily lives. They feel a strong urge to make changes in their life such as riding their bike to school, turning off lights at home, using less packaging and looking for alternatives in where they get their food.

In the end, when I asked the students what they loved most, the responses I received were, “We got to spend time surrounded by nature today,” and, “We learned how to feel compassionate and are excited to be a part of all the living things.”

This fall I visited schools in Victoria, Colwood, Vancouver, Mission, Vernon, Summerland, Squamish and Bowen Island. In 2016, I’m looking forward to teaching and connecting with even more students and nature in each of their unique schools and communities here on Vancouver Island and across the province. With each student I teach I am reminded that we are all part of making a difference.

Learn more about our school programs or book one for your classroom.

Thanks for teaching us about plants!

In fall 2015, our environmental educator Kirsten Dallimore, was up in the Okanagan visiting schools and teaching children about people, plants and the ways that we interact.

Through her program, students are invited to get to know local plants and learn ways aboriginal and non-aboriginal cultures use the plants.

At the end of the day, Kirsten asked her students to draw their favourite part of the day. Here are some of the responses:

Find out more about our environmental education programs here.

 

Back to School with Sierra Club BC

As parents and children get ready for the return to school, our education team is preparing to launch the 18th year of Sierra Club BC environmental education programs.

Every year, our education team offers hundreds of students and teachers unique nature-based learning experiences. Registrations for our in-school programs for grades K-8 are now open and are available to schools throughout B.C.

Explore the education section of our new website to find out about this year’s programs or to sign up for a program in your school. Educators, please peruse our extensive library of teaching resources.

To make environmental education accessible to as many B.C. classrooms as possible, we deliver our programs free of charge, with a suggested donation of $50.00 per program.

We are fundraising to bring our program to schools around B.C. If you would like to donate or launch a fundraising initiative on behalf of a school in your community, please contact Lisa Dumoulin.

September is also sign-up time for our Victoria-based youth program. Do you know a young person aged 13-18 who is passionate about the environment and making positive change? Encourage them to sign up for our Youth Environmental Leadership Program (YELP).

SFU to Become a Trailblazer in Canadian Environmental Education

Come Spring, Simon Fraser University (SFU) will be rolling out the green carpet and premiering a brand new credential, the Bachelor of Environment (BEnv), the first of its kind in Canada and the first degree to be introduced to the university in 22 years. Three new majors will also be introduced within this Bachelor program: Environmental Resource Management (ERM), Global Environmental Systems (GES), and Sustainable Business, which is a joint major between the Faculty of Environment and the Beedie School of Business.

I’m proud to say that I’m now approved as the first-ever Bachelor of Environment candidate in the Environmental Resource Management major!

The courses within the major program provide opportunities for students to take charge of their learning and let their creativity flow unabated, through group and individual projects, media presentations and research papers. Naturally, the majority of my research involves karst. My fascination with karst first began in an introductory environmental science course that is now a core requirement for the Environmental Resource Management major. I was immediately taken by this mysterious, limestone world that contributes to the biodiversity of our forests and freshwater streams, shelters our keystone and unique species and is important for scientific research.

Leigh McGregor, the Faculty of Environment’s Manager, Recruitment & Community Liaison and Faculty Advisor notes that these new programs build toward a balanced understanding of human-nature relationships, sustainability, and decision-making, focusing on the why as well as the how. Anthropocentrism, the prominent human-environment relationship within Canada, is critically examined and students are enlightened of alternative perspectives towards our natural world, from stewardship, where the resources we rely upon are sustainably managed, to deep ecology, where all aspects of the environment are protected and valued, whether they are of significance to humans or not.

Courses in the natural sciences, as well as in the social sciences and humanities, are required, and it is that requirement to study natural science courses that marks a difference between the BEnv and other environmental studies programs. Environmental issues are multi-faceted and although scientific expertise plays a key role in protection efforts, the ability to communicate with the general public, First Nation groups, government officials, and stakeholders, to defend critical habitats in courtrooms and through policy, and to protect natural resources through best management practices are just some of the skills that contemporary environmentalists must hone in our ever-changing political landscape. By emphasizing the natural sciences, the BEnv aims to provide students with the tools required to support decision making within complex environmental and sustainability challenges.

Leigh affectionately refers to me as the ”Environmental Stalker”, as I have emailed her consistently over the course of four terms to keep tabs on the progress of the BEnv as it made its way through the approval process. Environmental Resource Management in particular interested me because there is a huge demand in resource-dependent countries, such as Canada, to strike a balance between resource use and protection and I want to contribute to finding innovative solutions for sustainable resource use.

The interdisciplinary approach of this program, which covers themes such as Indigenous and First Nations perspectives, communication and conflict resolution, resource management, legislation, policy and regulation, and methods to inform decision making, will prepare students for the myriad opportunities in the environmental field.

From the initiation of a zero waste campaign in 2013, to the introduction of new environmental programs, SFU is active in the movement to provide environmental awareness and education. Go Clan!

For more information on SFU’s Bachelor of Environment, contact Leigh McGregor.
Learn more about initiatives that one student-led organization at SFU has taken to make the university more sustainable.