Our education program has officially begun!
These are but a few of the questions we asked each group of students who set foot on the trails at Scowen Park in the context of the Massawippi Foundation’s Nature Education Program. Coordinated and animated with the help of Nature Nerding, the program’s objective is to connect young people of the region with their natural heritage by providing opportunities to explore, discover and appreciate nature through the seasons. The long term vision is to help cultivate a connection so strong, so innate, that young people develop a sense of belonging and personal concern for the natural world. As many may know, one of the Foundation’s favorite sayings has become:
Each program outing creates a space for young people to truly know the natural world in their own backyard. This does not necessarily mean retaining facts and repeating information learned, but rather embracing one’s curiosity, engaging with one’s surroundings, and gradually gaining a sense of familiarity with and awareness of nature with each experience.
From mid-September to mid-October, we had the pleasure of welcoming nine school groups for a total of approximately 150 students! Students joined us from both French and English schools in the towns of North Hatley, Ayer’s Cliff, Waterville and Stanstead. Geared towards grades three and four, the program’s theme was “The Wonders of Fall”, featuring a scavenger hunt inviting students to use all their senses in observing and interacting with nature while asking questions about how each element or “wonder” was related to the fall season. In addition to stoking students’ curiosity for the natural world, the fall program aimed to introduce the students to Scowen Park and at the same time, have them consider what it means to have a safe and respectful outing in nature.
Highlights of this season’s program included seeing garter snakes sunning amongst the leaf litter, learning about little known, but cool phenomena such as thistle galls, beechdrops and fern sori and of course, noticing the wide variety of fascinating fungi growing in all kinds of interesting places along the trails! Magnifying glasses in hand and binoculars at the ready, students let their wonder and curiosity guide them. They saw neat things and learned some new terms, but most importantly of all, they asked great questions and shared their discoveries and enthusiasm with each other.
With the fall program having come to a close, we reflect on the season we just had and the year ahead while brimming with gratitude and excitement. We are grateful for every person participating in the program, whether as an educator or as a student. Each group has its own personality and energy, students bringing with them a new perspective on the park and the wonders to behold. No two outings were the same this season, nor will they be in winter and spring. This is a gift! We are also incredibly thankful for the Massawippi Foundation making this program possible. In the last year, the Foundation has very intentionally turned its attention to education as an integral part of its overarching conservation mandate. Not only did this involve recruiting someone to design and lead the program, but the program strives to offer schools a turnkey experience from providing a snack and drink at each outing to paying for each group’s bus transportation. This is all in an effort to encourage and facilitate school participation, helping connect as many young people as possible with nature.
Finally, we can hardly contain our excitement! As we consider the future of the Education Program, we see a world of possibilities. Having received feedback from several teachers, we are pleased to hear that students are already looking forward to the winter visit… as are we! The program is in its first inaugural year and if the fall season is any indication, we are in for an incredible year filled with wonder and delight! Jessica Adams, Nature Nerding.