*This article will be published in the upcoming Island Parent Summer Resource Guide in July 2018.
By Communications Specialist Summer Goulden
Paradise is defined as a place of extreme beauty, delight, or happiness. Its alternate definition? Vancouver Island.
This island is an incredible place to be any time of the year, but it’s particularly special in the summer months. With so much to do and see, there’s a reason people who travel all over the world still say it’s the most beautiful place on earth.
The summer is also a great time to get kids outside and exploring! Just because school is out doesn’t mean the learning has to stop. Spending time outside gives kids the chance to create memories and build roots in their community, helping them develop a sense of stewardship for the places we call home, and all the creatures we share it with.
Through building relationships with other people spending time outdoors, exploring the vast array of ecosystems the island has to offer, and connecting with all sorts of wildlife, children learn through their experiences why we love this place so much, and why we fight so hard to protect it.
Fostering a love and respect for nature at a young age helps us raise the leaders we so desperately need as we look toward the future. We protect what we love, and we love what we know.
Parents and guardians have a significant role to play in exposing children to the magic and wonders of the natural world. It’s not always about teaching with words. We learn some of our most valuable lessons through experiences.
So where do we find these experiences?
It seems like everything is broken down into lists these days, like the ‘The Top 5 Beaches to See’ or ‘The 10 Best Camping Spots.’ But Vancouver Island is a big place, and you can find magic wherever you go -you just have to get out there. It’s not about finding the ‘perfect’ place, it’s about the experiences you have there and the memories you create. You could travel to every place on your list and still have a more impactful experience at your local playground or in your own backyard. You never know!
One of my favourite experiences on Vancouver Island was completely unexpected, and I still remember the day clearly even though it was many years ago. I was sitting on the beach in the pouring rain at Devonian Regional Park in Metchosin when a pod of orcas surfaced right in front of me. They were so close to the shore it seemed like they must be touching the ocean floor.
I was so elated it brought tears to my eyes and I couldn’t help but shout out in excitement…and then I saw it: the tiny dorsal fin of one of the pod’s newest members, playfully surfacing and diving while never straying too far from the rest of the pod. I felt such a profound love and connection to the island and all its inhabitants in that moment, and I knew I would do whatever it takes to protect them.
Vancouver Island is home to many endangered living things such as the southern resident orca whales, the peregrine falcon, and the entire Garry oak ecosystem. Children are now growing up in a time when things are changing at an unprecedented rate, but this doesn’t mean it’s too late to make impactful changes. Take a look at the sea otter, for example. They almost went extinct in the early 1900s, but over the past 50 years, their population has grown to roughly 3,000 members!
In my experience, it’s easier to show someone why they should care about something than to tell them. It’s also easier to highlight the positive things than to focus on the negative. How do we communicate to our kids about climate change? How do we talk about ocean acidity, or deforestation, or declining species populations?
We take them to explore tide pools and all the creatures that call them home. We go for walks in the forest and marvel at all the species that live together in harmony. We identify as many species as we can as we walk around our communities. Through building relationships with animals and the natural world, we develop a sense of belonging, and with it a sense of protection for these unique, beautiful, interconnected bionetworks.
So forget about planning the perfect day or adventure and just get outside! You never know what’s out there, waiting to be discovered.
Feature image by Lynn M.