Education Through the Years
In addition to the regular outdoor education programming we are well known for, we continue to expand our offerings in new and innovative ways.
Our highly qualified educators are leaders in their field, offering programming to children, youth and adults, including special programming for at risk youth, differently abled youth and newcomer Canadians.
Learning the Forest School Way
Forest school is gaining momentum all over the world. It’s an opportunity to engage children with rich experiential learning and ecological literacy through child-led activities that help them develop a strong sense of self and connect them to the land.
This connection is critical if we want to raise a generation that will steward (take care of) the land and contribute to a more sustainable world. Forest School was newly offered at our Scanlon Creek Conservation Area in 2018 as a pilot program. Its success kept it going into 2019 and we have more offerings planned for 2020. We have one staff member who has already completed her year-long intensive certification as a Forest School Practitioner and another staff member that began his training this year.
Therapy in the Woods
Therapy in the Woods is an outdoor education program for early learners with special needs. The program began in 2015, led by staff at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, while we provided the specialized outdoor education.
This year, the program has been acknowledged as a “Leading Practice” by Accreditation Canada, which came out of the hospital’s recent Accreditation process. A “Leading Practice” is defined as being people-centered, demonstrating positive change, and is safe and efficient.
This recognition has shone a spotlight on the program and may encourage others to develop their own similar programs.
Therapy in the Woods is Growing!
What began as a pilot with a handful of children is now expanding to another city! In 2020, the program is going to expand beyond the Nature Centre at Scanlon Creek to a greenspace in the Barrie area.
All Ears, All In
Teachers in our watershed know we’re always up for a new challenge or opportunity. If it involves engaging kids in a meaningful way, we’re all ears! That’s why this past year teaching staff at Sutton District High School wanted to know if we could help augment, with special programming, their six-week outdoor education course for their alternative education students.Our Education staff lead, Dana Eldon, put out a further call to other staff at LSRCA, specifically in the Lands and Restoration Services Divisions, to see if they could help out, which of course, they did. The group created a unique 3-day program that provided real-world, relevant and engaging experiences for these teens. Dana, who’s been an Educator with the conservation authority for more than 10 years, and has personally interacted with thousands and thousands of kids, said of the experience, “it’s some of the most rewarding work I’ve done.”
A teacher in the Science Department at Huron Heights Secondary School in Newmarket also had an idea for engaging his students in citizen science. Our educators led an in-school session for a Grade 11 Biology class, helping them learn how to use the “iNaturalist” App and then took them outside on their own school grounds to get some hands-on experience with the App. The student’s second experience included a walk to Mabel Davis Conservation Area, where they put their newly acquired skills into action and conducted a mini “BioBlitz” on the property. Plans to continue this program are already in the works!
The benefits of this collaboration are numerous. LSRCA learned more about the species at one of our conservation areas. The kids, who didn’t even know about the conservation area before this exercise, are now acquainted with it and are more apt to visit the area, which is a simple walk from their school.
Innovative Teacher Professional Development
Our Education staff also engage teachers in professional development, creating opportunities to learn how to deliver their own outdoor education programs to their students. This year, we offered a full day session with high school science department heads at York Region District School Board, and then a session with teachers in the elementary panel. Collaborating with staff in several other key service areas at LSRCA, we offered training in developing citizen science programming using the “iNaturalist” App and we provided information and experiential activities about climate change issues in the watershed. Both groups came away with practical resources they could then take to deliver with their students.
Engaging with Our Libraries as Critical Partners
Libraries deliver increasingly important community services that we are now tapping into as another avenue to support and promote care for the watershed.
This past year, we collaborated with the Town of Aurora to offer information, presentations, and an interpretive walk to newcomers to Canada about living around Lake Simcoe.
In the Town of East Gwillimbury, we provided programming to support two local libraries (Holland Landing and Mount Albert) and their TD Bank summer reading club series: “The Natural World”.
We also offered a program in partnership with the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury Library, called “Storywalk™”, at Scanlon Creek. Pages of the book “Leafman” were displayed along a trail at the conservation area and participants could read the book as they walked along the trail. There was also a leaf craft, an interactive nature display table and children could play at the Discovery Play Garden. It was a great way to combine outdoor adventure with an indoor pleasure.