To get summer started off right, here are some nature-based activities to support you and your family in having a creative season!
By Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore
The days have begun to cool down and the rain has returned to nurture the plants and animals as we welcome a new season—a new journey. I welcome you back for another exciting and inspiring school year full of possibility for wonderful nature connection moments with students across B.C.
I’m pleased to be returning for my 5th school year and I’m curious who I will meet this year and what I will learn and be able to share.
Something I’ve been reminded of recently is that in order to model and share nature connection with kids, I need to embark on my own nature connection journey. That’s why this summer I was part of a one-week deep connection workshop called the “Art of Mentoring” that took place on Salt Spring Island.
During that time I was reminded of the core routines: offering gratitude, the importance of sharing my story with someone, and the “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.
I encourage all of you to try out these core routines in your own nature connection journey and see how they fit into your life. The key question to ask yourself is: what would make this year more meaningful for my journey out in nature?
You might be wondering what’s new this year in Education at Sierra Club BC.
I am excited to announce that my fellow Environmental Educator Amira and I are working collaboratively to develop and deliver our education programs across the province. When we visit a school together there will be greater capacity to reach more classes and make a deeper impact in that one school community. That’s exciting, and I am looking forward to experiencing the impacts this will make in schools, specifically in the conversations that teachers have with one another when they share their stories about their workshop and what they did with their class when we visited.
We have been busy preparing our programs for a relaunch of our Going Wild! workshops. In the spring, we were fortunate to have our programs go through a formal evaluation process based on specific environmental education standards. We were delighted for the feedback that our programming is exemplary overall.
The workshops continue to focus on planting seeds to sprout environmental stewards through a holistic, shared lens of Indigenous teachings and scientific understanding. Highlights include greater time spent outdoors, Indigenous teachings intertwined throughout the workshops, greater hands-on exploration time, and a focus on building environmental stewards throughout our province.
This year our Education program is celebrating our 20th birthday. It’s a fabulous time for us all to reflect on the role we have played in supporting children to spend more time outdoors connecting with nature, where our efforts continue in the present and into the future keeping in mind the future generations.
I would like to personally thank all of you for your continued support for the education team at Sierra Club BC.
Feature image by Brynne Morrice.
By James Davis, Education Program Manager
Welcome back to a new school year! September marks 20 years of Sierra Club BC’s work with schools across the province to help students build relationships with their natural surroundings – a major accomplishment. Stay tuned to hear how we’ll be celebrating this milestone.
In the meantime, after a fairly quiet summer, things are buzzing again here in the Education Program at Sierra Club BC.
Kirsten and Amira just returned from their summer jobs and are busy working on revisions to our Nature and Play, Lifecycles and Ecosystems, and People and Plants workshops.
These program enhancements are inspired by valuable suggestions that we received from a local environmental education consultant who conducted an evaluation of our programming back in the spring. We were thrilled with her feedback that our programming is exemplary overall and we look forward to testing out refined versions of these workshops this fall.
After a successful pilot project during the spring, we are also excited that Amira will continue to facilitate French language versions of our Nature and Play (Kindergarten) and Lifecycles and Ecosystems (Grades 1-2) workshops!
Interested in having Kirsten or Amira visit your school to lead nature-based workshops for your students? Just head over to https://sierraclub.bc.ca/education/k-8-going-wild-programs to read our workshop descriptions and then click on the “Request a Workshop” button to fill out the request form.
On behalf of the Education Program and the entire Sierra Club BC team, thanks for all you do to help students connect with the natural environment. We look forward to getting outside and learning with you soon!
*This article was published in the Island Parent Family Summer Guide 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.
By Kirsten Dallimore, Environmental Educator with Sierra Club BC
This article appeared in the January 2017 edition of Island Parent Magazine.
The beginning of the new year is a fresh start—full of a variety of possibilities for outdoor adventure and exploration with kids. And it’s the perfect chance to make that resolution to spend more time outdoors with the children in your life. Now’s the time to carve out a path for this years’ adventures.
As you start to make plans for your family this year, I encourage you to look at where your family spends the majority of your time. Ask yourself: how will I provide opportunities for my family to spend more time in nature? How can I get started right away this winter?
Kids and winter get along just great. Kids love splashing in mud puddles. They dream about snowflakes that have potential to be made into snowmen. They crave the big winter waves at the beach that are full of loud, crashing sounds. Most of all, kids are amazed by the discovery of wildlife signs in the forest.
So get out there and explore the beach after a big winter storm. Examine the diverse varieties of seaweed that have arrived on shore. Embrace the first snowfall with a walk in the forest to look at animal tracks or roll through the leaves down a hill. Go for walks in the forest and look for multi-coloured mushrooms popping up. Take this opportunity to look, listen and smell the variety of life that is alive and thriving during the winter season.
Try taking your kids outside on a rainy day. Just remember to bundle everyone up with proper rain gear and gumboots. A fun thing to bring along on your adventure is some hot nature tea. This will to help keep you warm on your journey.
The task: splash in the puddles. How many puddles can you find? What does it feel like to just stand in a mud puddle? How deep are the puddles? What wildlife also likes to enjoy the puddles? Are there any animals or birds you can see that need the rain for their survival?
Try suggesting that your child pretends they are an animal living in the local ecosystem. Maybe they can become a black-tailed deer. As you continue on your walk, find places where the deer might go to find water to drink and find protection from the rain throughout the winter months.
If possible, gather everyone together underneath a cedar tree. Find one that has low lying boughs that provide refuge from the rain drops. This may also give you an opportunity to stay dry for a while. Under these big branches is a great location to enjoy your hot tea.
Encouraging kids to use their “deer ears” to listen, “coyote nose” to smell and “eagle eyes” to look for things outdoors helps expand their senses and knowledge about nature. Developing your bird language and sensory skills is rewarding and fun. Chestnut-backed chickadees, Steller’s jays, dark-eyed juncos and spotted towhees are common winter birds that will help get you started on your own bird watching journey. Listening to recordings online and looking at pictures of birds before you head into the forest will help you train your senses to spot them.
As you are looking and listening for birds, take the time to smell the trees and touch the bark. A great little activity to do with kids is called “Greet a Tree.” With their eyes closed, carefully guide them to a tree in the forest. Get them to touch and smell the tree, with their eyes still closed. Then slowly guide them back, away from the tree. When they open up their eyes, they must go back and see if they can find the tree that they originally greeted. They will accomplish this task if they can successfully identify their tree by touch and smell.
A fun artistic project to do together as a family is to make your own backyard bird feeder. You can make bird feeders from pinecones or recycled plastic juice or milk containers. Throw a tea party for the birds by picking up some fancy cups and saucers from your local thrift shop and filling them with bird seed to attract local birds to your backyard. Watch and listen as they become your daily visitors.
Winter is meant for rejuvenation and discovery. Enjoying the changing seasons is part of forming a deeper connection to a place. Repeat visits to the same place throughout all of the seasons will enable your kids to gain a greater understanding of that place and to sharpen their senses. So get out and discover something new this season together.
Please donate today to ensure we can keep our environmental education program free and accessible for kids across BC.
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?
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.
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!
Feature image by K. Zolotas.