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Six ways you can make a difference for the environment this election

April 2017

It’s official—the BC election period has begun.

From now until Election Day, the rules make it difficult for Sierra Club BC to draw attention to issues you care about like the Site C dam, Kinder Morgan tankers and protecting old-growth forests.

That’s why we need your help more than ever to amplify these critical election issues. Here are six ways you can make a difference for BC’s environment this election:

  1. If you haven’t already, join our Facebook community and follow us on Twitter. Checking our news feed is an amazingly simple way to keep track of the issues you care about most and share them with your own network. We’ll be keeping close tabs on the news for you, and we’re hoping you’ll share it like you’ve never shared before!
  2. Talk to your friends, family and neighbours. Encourage them to get informed on the issues in your riding. Share what you know about how the Site C dam will cause their hydro bills to skyrocket to provide subsidies to oil and gas corporations. Voting is more fun together – make a plan with friends to walk to the polls together or offer them a ride to the polling station if you can!
  3. Attend an all-candidates meeting in your riding. Ask your candidates where they stand on the Site C dam and Kinder Morgan’s tar sands pipeline and tankers proposal. Find our team at meetings in Victoria, Esquimalt, Sidney, Vancouver and Tri-Cities.
  4. Volunteer with us! Right now, we need canvassers on the ground and on the phone helping to get out the vote. Contact galen@sierraclub.bc.ca to join our team.
  5. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper on the issue you care about most. Whether it’s supporting clean water, good green jobs, a livable climate, or keeping big old trees standing, you are in the best position to influence your own community by taking a stand.
  6. And of course, don’t forget to vote on May 9 or in the advance polls! (Not sure if you’re registered? Sign up here)

Elections come and go. Politicians rise and fall. Communities are here to stay, as is the natural world we depend on. And no matter who is in power after May 9, Sierra Club BC will continue working hard to defend the places you love. We hope you’ll join us.

Earth Day Challenge: Get outside and PLAY!

By Sierra Club BC Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore

April 5, 2017

Earth Day is coming up on April 22. What is your school community doing to celebrate during Earth Week?

Sunshine and Smiles. Photo by Terri Boizard.

Earth Week is a time to celebrate and join together to work toward sustaining and building healthy and vibrant communities. This year I invite every class to take part in a challenge to get outside and PLAY!  Play is an essential part to a child’s development and play-based learning leads to greater social, emotional and academic success. Play is how children explore the world around them. According to research conducted by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, “intentional play-based learning enables children to investigate, ask questions, solve problems, and engage in critical thinking.”

It is important to provide your students with the opportunity go outside and allow them to engage in self-directed free play in nature.

How do you make this happen? It’s easy!

Instead of taking them to the built playground structure on the school ground, take your students to a place where the natural landscape and vegetation is accessible to them. This could mean an open grassy field or, if you’re lucky, a nearby forest. Believe it or not, once the kids are immersed in a natural space they will automatically start to explore, climb, run and ask questions and make observations about what they are seeing on their own.

On your first visit to this natural space, I suggest taking out with you basic supplies to get you started. These could include items such as magnify glasses, small trowels, paper and pencils for nature sketching, or items for a nature scavenger hunt (find scavenger hunt ideas here!) These items would be used to help kids get started in exploring nature. By the second or third visit you should no longer be needing any additional tools to get kids engaged.

The kids will start to immerse themselves in free play and will rely more on nature to provide the tools for interaction and investigation. Ideally, if you are able to continue with taking your kids outside on a regular basis (once or twice a week) for self-directed play, you will start to observe some changes in behavior.

Mason by the Sooke seashore. Photo by Jess Alford.

A deep nature connection activity I highly suggest is a “sit spot.” A sit spot provides time for students to find their own place in nature, sit quietly, and take time to observe and reflect on what is happening around them. Sit spots are an ideal way to start off your nature play time each time you go outside as a class. Observing seasonal changes throughout the year at their sit spot will enable your students to develop a deeper nature connection to a place.  Starting this week, in celebration of Earth Day, take your students outside and enable them to play outside in nature.

Looking for a special event to be a part of as a school community during Earth Week?

EarthPLAY for Earth Day is an Earth Day Canada initiative to get schools more involved in taking their students outside. Earth Day Canada is inviting schools across the country to get outside and play during the week leading up to Earth Day on April 22. They suggest taking an extended recess or hosting a whole day of popup adventure play at your school.

This is an amazing opportunity to connect kids with nature through outdoor, active, self-directed and unstructured play. Encourage kids to get outside no matter the weather or how much nature your school site offers. This is a valuable opportunity for children to create their own playground through outdoor play. Register your school and get tips and a tool kit for an EarthPLAY event at your school.

 

Earth Day community events happening around BC on April 22:

VICTORIA: Celebrate Community and Sustainability at the 6th Annual Creatively United Sustainability Showcase at the Royal BC Museum

VICTORIA: Bioblitz of Garry Oak Ecosystems

SURREY: Party for the Planet

NORTH VANCOUVER: Celebrate Earth Day at Mahon Park!

KELOWNA: Celebrate Biodiversity at the Kelowna Museum

 

Feature image by K. Zolotas.

Deep nature connection in the modern world: Coyote Mentoring

By Sierra Club BC Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore

There are two worlds: the modern world of science and technology, and the ancient world where we use our wild instincts to survive and understand what is happening around us. In our modern world, many of us have lost the deep nature connection our ancestors had. It’s time to ignite our wild instincts once again.

In his book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv wrote about nature deficit disorder. Louv expresses concern about our quality of life in the modern world on all levels—emotional, spiritual, mental, physical, cultural, and ecological. We are starting to understand that nature is fundamental to our overall well-being—and so we should all be getting some daily Vitamin (N)ature.

Snow Bunting

Snow bunting

However, in our busy modern lives, it is difficult to fully understand that deep nature connection is more than just a walk in the forest. Although this is a start, a deep nature connection must take place over the long term. Deep nature connection is about how we humans connect to nature, to other people, and to ourselves.  It is about the knowledge and connection to place that is ingrained into a culture.

Deep nature connection is not on the radar for many of us because we don’t actively learn it from a young age. So how can we humans living in the modern world integrate a deep nature connection into our lives and our children’s lives through education?

Coyote mentoring is a unique educational approach that has been developed over the past 25 years by Jon Young at the Wilderness Awareness School in Washington State. It uses children’s passion and excitement for nature as a catalyst to actively engage them in their learning process. Deep nature connection through coyote mentoring is an approach I have started to incorporate into my nature teachings at Sierra Club BC.

Coyote

Coyote

Deep nature connection through coyote mentoring is full of storytelling and music. It follows a child’s passion, incites awareness, and follows a natural cycle. Experimentation and play encourage adventure and fun. Children stretch their curiosity to the edge of nature learning—and through this comes healing and empowerment.

When there is a bird or an animal in the forest, do you hear it? Do you see it? Or are you too distracted and disconnected by the modern world to even notice it? Do you know what is happening around you? Are we so disconnected in the modern world that we are missing out on the natural things that surround us in our lives?

Coyote mentoring calls on us to stretch our awareness and become trained to see what is happening all around us each time we are in nature. As a mentor, my role is to help train kids how to listen and observe nature. I provide them with the support they need to break from old habits and create a fresh awareness about nature.

As Jon Young explains, our ecological footprint tells us we can’t afford not to be aware of things that are happening around us in nature. It’s quite simple: if people don’t connect with nature, they won’t love it. If they don’t love it, then they likely won’t support conservation efforts. If we don’t have a population of people who care about the earth, then we don’t have the capacity to create change.

White Tailed Deer

White-tailed deer

Coyote mentoring is a journey of self-knowledge and a bond between humans and nature. We meet people where they are on their journey. When my students are afraid of experiencing something in nature, I do not push them. I wait until they are ready to explore. Kinship with the land must be established first—then first-hand experiences with the natural world will happen. People break out of their comfort zones and old habits and begin to have a fresh awareness.

Much happens below the surface through this type of mentoring. This is called the invisible school. The invisible school is a place where mentors pass on knowledge and provide a place for deep connection. It enables that connection to become ingrained into a culture to the point where people connect with nature without even thinking about it.

Deep nature connection was a feature of ancient societies for thousands of years. It can still take place in our modern world. I believe this journey is a very valuable one if we want to see a bright, healthy future in our modern world.

Recommended resources on deep nature connection:

Video: Jon Young Speaks About the Role of Deep Nature Connection in Culture Repair

Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young, Evan McGown and Ellen Haas

Oak and Orca Forest School

Forest School Canada

Victoria Nature School

Fresh Air Learning

Soaring Eagle Nature School

Wilderness Awareness School

GreenHeart Education

Take your adventures outside this Spring Break!

By Sierra Club BC Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore

March 7 2017

Looking to get the kids outdoors and into nature over the spring break? Interested in joining a group of like-minded kids and families? Check out my recommendations for keeping nature connected and learning something new this spring break.

Getting outside over the spring break is something that we all look forward to doing. The sounds and smells of spring are in the air and we must embrace all the new discoveries that arrive this time of year in nature. The kids are anxious to explore, to play outdoor games and to experience life beyond the four walls of a classroom. Depending where you live, this might be your first opportunity since last summer to explore the beach or go for a hike in the forest without deep snow.

Having grown up in Ontario, I have always associated this time of year with Maple Season and the sound of water melting. The days are getting longer and the temperatures are warming up. The sounds of the spring peepers can be heard in the distance. Animals and birds are moving about and making more of an appearance. I grew up visiting my local conservation parks, learning how to make maple syrup and taking part in an interpretive guided hike program. I loved spending my time splashing in puddles after the thaw of a long winter. It is such a magical time of year for kids to be able to run, play and splash around in puddles and get excited about the tree buds, blossoms and birds. We can all hope after a long winter that spring is finally in the air!

Students at Quadra Elementary. Photo by Craig Janzen.

Regional parks in your own community are amazing places for the entire family to explore and learn something new. They are a great spot to experience and learn about all the changes that are taking place in nature.  During March break, many parks host events that will get you out to learn about wildlife such as bees, birds and beavers. The variety of family-friendly drop-in events as well as guided interpretive hikes are sure to be a hit for all ages.

If you are looking for a nature program for the kids during March break, why not check out what’s happening in regional parks in the Capital Regional District or Metro Vancouver?

If you live or are planning to visit Tofino over the March break and are looking for an incredible opportunity for your child to become immersed into nature each day with like-minded kids, you definitely should check out Tofino Nature Kids. They are facilitating a spring break camp at the Tofino Botanical Gardens for ages 5-9 years old which will include a variety of activities such as fire making, games, songs and stories. Kids will build on their nature skills and connect through play while taking part in this program with Tofino Nature Kids.

There are also great programs happening in the Central Okanagan and the Kootenays!

Wherever you find yourself this spring break with the kids, remember to take a moment to reflect and embrace this wonderful awakening in nature. I encourage you to take your adventures outside and see and experience something new.

Happy exploring!

Feature image by Craig Janzen.

“10 years back, 10 years forward”: Children, families and nature

Saturday February 25, 2017
8:30 AM – 5:00 PM PST

Royal Roads University
Hatley Castle Drawing Room
2005 Sooke Rd. Victoria BC

In February 2007, The Kesho Trust, Mountain Equipment Co-op, the University of Victoria and Royal Roads University hosted a community conference called a Dialogue on Children, Families and Nature. We were interested in the implications of the then-current book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder and invited its author Richard Louv to attend. This gathering, as well as a similar gatherings in 2009 and 2011, led to the formation of the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada and other critical initiatives related to getting children and families outside to experience and enjoy the many benefits of connecting with nature.

The Kesho Trust, Sierra Club of BC and Royal Roads University is hosting a ten-year anniversary meeting where we can all:

  • Hear about the outcomes of the work initiated or growing from those earlier gatherings;
  • Discuss where we believe we should be moving towards in the next ten years and how we might plan to move toward this desired future;
  • Celebrate!

The day will begin with coffee and mingling; our keynote speaker will be author Richard Louv, who will join us via the internet from his home in San Diego, CA. In addition, the Lieutenant Governor of BC, the Honourable Judy Guichon, will be attendng and she will offer her thoughts as a person who has a long-standing interest in this movement.

There will be a series of three panel presentations, each with 3-4 invited speakers. The panels will cover the domains of nature-based programs in schools (K-12), urban issues in child/nature connection, and the role of NGOs and governmental agencies. Panelists will briefly speak on where they see this movement has been and where it needs to go over the next decade.

Lunch will be provided, along with coffee and snacks.

Following the panel presentations, we will have a facilitated process which will allow you to think about what your desired futures might be in terms of the theme of the conference, and then to engage in a process of imagining the steps needed to get to that desired future.

Following the event, an open no-host bar will take place in the beautiful drawing room of Hatley Castle at Royal Roads University.

Download your free 2017 Nature E-Calendar!

To thank our many supporters for your inspiring efforts this past year, we’ve created a special gift to help you enjoy nature throughout 2017: an e-calendar series of breathtaking nature images from special places across British Columbia.

This series features one photo for each month of the year with a quick-reference calendar for your computer desktop. These specially selected photos were taken by photographer and longtime Sierra Club BC local group volunteer Caspar Davis. We are grateful for supporters like Caspar who help us showcase the beauty of this province.

The series is available in multiple sizes for different desktop proportions. Instructions for installing them as your desktop wallpaper are below.

We hope you enjoy these images as much as we do!

Wishing you the best for 2017.
Sierra Club BC

Choose the right aspect ratio for your desktop size and click to download your images here:

4:3 (1600 x 1200)

5:4 (1280 x 1024)

16:9 (2560 x 1440)

16:10 (2560 x 1600)

Instructions for installing:

Unzip the folder to extract the files to your computer.

To install on a Mac, click the apple icon in the top left of your screen, then Select System Preferences > Desktop and Screensaver. Find the folder of pictures in the search column on the left. Click on the folder and then click on the January photo to set your desktop wallpaper.

To install on a PC, select the Start  Start symbol button, then select Settings > Personalization. In Background, browse the picture folder and select the picture you want. The preview window gives you a sneak peek of your changes as you make them.

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.

Our Thanksgiving Gift

By Bob Peart

October 7, 2016

It is important throughout the year to ‘take stock’ and contemplate our lives, our fortunes and the plight of those who are less fortunate. Perhaps this is especially true at Thanksgiving.

These days our lives seem to be overtaken with the pressures of family life, the demands of social media, and the growing concern that climate change threatens the economy, environment and society as we know it.

scbc-staff-mar-2016_1_forweb

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Sierra Club BC!

On the other hand, British Columbia is a gift to the world with our globally significant wildlife and web of life. There are few places on Earth that are as blessed with the water, air and natural world that surrounds us and keeps us healthy.

At Sierra Club BC, we are working hard to defend this gift of nature and to put forward a message of hope and opportunity. We will continue to oppose those who disregard the warnings on the horizon as well as continue to speak out about the necessity of moving toward a post-carbon solution so families, communities and nature can prosper together.

So on Thanksgiving Day I hope you ‘take stock’ and are able to get outside and enjoy the healthy gift of nature.

Bob Peart

Executive Director

Sierra Club BC

Spend Your October Outdoors!

It’s October and #NatureIsCalling—let’s all put down the phone and answer!

You know that when nature calls for help, Sierra Club BC answers. Now we’re asking you to answer nature’s call in two ways:

  • First, by taking our challenge to get outdoors yourself each day in October.
  • And second, by helping Sierra Club BC defend nature where and when it’s needed through our October Outdoors fundraising challenge.

The benefits of spending time in nature are immeasurable. But our natural world is at risk. You can simultaneously connect with nature in your community, and act to protect it.

From October 10 to 31st, join other British Columbians by committing to spending time outdoors. Sign up online, make a commitment to connecting with nature for your chosen amount of time every day during the campaign, and share your experience with friends. Become a defender of nature and reap the benefits of connecting outdoors by joining our October Outdoors fundraising challenge.

For example, you could ride your bike to work, play with your kids outside for an hour, walk your dog for half an hour, meditate in the woods for 15 minutes… or anything else you like to do outside. If you start on October 10, you’d be committing to a total of 21 days. If you start on the 24th, you’d be committing to 8 days.

Visit our October Outdoors page to find out how to join the fun, invite your friends to take the challenge, and bring in some money to help Sierra Club BC continue our work defending nature when it calls for help.

It’s a simple and healthy way to benefit from nature while nature benefits from you. Choose an outdoor activity that you enjoy – and make a commitment to do it in October. Then ask your network to support you, and help raise funds for Sierra Club BC to continue our work defending nature.

Make sure to share photos of yourself outside using the hashtag #NatureIsCalling!

Won’t you join us for October Outdoors? We guarantee you’ll feel better for it!

My Experience Volunteering with Sierra Club BC

By Jody Holmes

Jody Holmes

I really enjoyed the time I spent volunteering with Kirsten in elementary classes in my hometown of Prince George. It was great to see an experienced environmental educator in action. Kirsten was very good at keeping students engaged during her presentations, and the classes were very interactive. I was happy to help the students with questions they had during the class activities, and it was great to get outside with the classes for the scavenger hunts and other activities. I really enjoyed seeing so much excitement from the students during the outdoor games. It was a pleasure for me to answer questions the students asked about the things they discovered in the natural environment. Kirsten delivered great indoor and outdoor components, and she did a great job of explaining the importance of biodiversity, and describing the threats of over-consumption.

I especially liked the activity in which Kirsten laid out a tarp and asked the students to stand on it. Kirsten then proceeded to fold up portions of the tarp to signify habitat loss resulting from industrial activities. This exercise showed how the carrying capacity of ecosystems and the Earth itself is limited. If humans continue to degrade the environment, there will be less and less habitable land for the continuously increasing populations of humans. We also must share the habitable land with the many plants and animals we depend on for our survival. This activity provided a clear explanation about why humans must find a way to live more harmoniously with the natural environment. We must protect the environment in order to preserve humanity and all of the other inhabitants on planet Earth.

I really appreciated having the opportunity to help Kirsten with some of her presentations. It was a great learning experience for me and I was very fortunate to interact with the many bright students. It was also great to meet the many welcoming teachers who were excited to have Kirsten come to their classes. I believe this experience will help me in my efforts to develop and deliver environmental education presentations of my own. I am currently developing a Sustainability Education program as a major component of my non-profit organization named Connecting Communities. Connecting Communities has been established to educate youth and the public about the importance of sustainable development, and to encourage people to contribute to improving their communities by participating in local projects.

Thanks Kirsten and Lisa from Sierra Club BC! The experience was a great pleasure!

Jody Holmes is an environmental educator in Prince George, B.C. He recently started Connecting Communities, a non-profit organization committed to creating positive change in communities across the globe.

Want to support strong environmental education in B.C.? When you donate today, $25 gives a student the chance to connect with nature at their school. $100 helps us travel to a remote community. $250 gives teachers a free workshop in how to integrate nature into their classroom.