Outdoor education programs and the schools that now offer them face waitlists, as more parents are looking for ways to ensure their children get a much-needed dose of learning in nature. There is a demand greater than our current school system’s ability to fill for learning in a natural setting. When South Park School launched its outdoor learning program, parents were camping overnight just to get a spot for their children on it. Local charity Habitat Acquisition Trust is working to fill this need for nature-based learning, through several partnerships and programs.
Teaming up with the Goldstream Nature House through the Goldstream Chums program, Habitat Acquisition Trust supports learning about the salmon run for over 6,000 students and families annually. Keeping knowledge of the role salmon play in local natural heritage alive and well.
Through a program dubbed Green Spots, Habitat Acquisition Trust responds to requests from three local schools and hundreds of students a year to facilitate hands-on nature-based workshops. In fall of 2017, 71 elementary students at Marigold School picked up shovels to plant a pollinator garden, enhancing an existing endangered Garry Oak ecosystem on their very own school grounds. Now in spring, Camas and Chocolate Lilies are healthy and growing from the mulch playfully placed by young students.
At South Park Family School kids from kindergarten to elementary ages dug in to plant over 550 native seeds and plants. After preparing the ground themselves, students and families gathered to host a First Nations drumming and dance ceremony, by the end of the day dozens of children were smiling and smeared with the dirt of a job well done.
“It was a fantastic whole-community learning event,” described South Park Principal Sean McCartney.
Stelly’s Secondary: Supporting Community Involvement in the Curriculum
It started in 2016, when a high school student from Stelly’s Green Team club wrote an email to Habitat Acquisition Trust, reaching out for a chance to do nature-based volunteering in the community. From there, the students and land trust teamed up to learn about and restore a local park called Oak Haven in Central Saanich. Through a series of nature walks and days spent at the park learning to identify and remove invasive weeds, the students received an enriching experience that in turn benefited their community.
“In managing protected spaces, Habitat Acquisition Trust endeavours to connect these precious landscapes with people and groups in the community, to ensure their ongoing stewardship. When the Stelly’s Students approached us about wanting to get involved, I was so moved. Students want to make a difference in their community, we are here to connect them with those opportunities, wherever we can” – Alanah Nasadyk, Community and Development Coordinator
Coming up on April 28th, 50 Stelly’s Secondary Students from the Global Perspectives Program will return to Oak Haven Park to continue the project of removing invasive plants like Scotch Broom, Daphne Laureola, and Himalayan Blackberry. Expert rare plant specialist and biologist, Matt Fairbarns will lead the students on a botany talk, to deepen their understanding of the native plant world around them. With the park protecting a plant species of special concern, and a wide variety of wildlife students can take pride in keeping this important space from being damaged by invading plants.
“The goal of our Global Perspectives program is to make a difference in the world. Our Grade 12s focus on making a difference in a developing country, but our Grade 11s focus on making a difference in our community. This could be increasing public awareness about issues, supporting social change, helping out with social projects (we volunteer at Our Place each week) or helping to improve the environment in Central Saanich. Through beach cleanups and work with HAT, we hope our students make this a better place to live.” – Chris McDonald, Stelly’s Global Perspectives Teacher
Habitat Acquisition Trust will be involved in several upcoming all-ages, family-friendly and nature-based events:
April 23rd Spring Fling Pollinator Festival, Matson Lands - 5 minute walk from West Bay Marina along West Song Walkway, with Hummingbird walk and talk including nest-spotting at 10:15 AM and a Bee Safari with Madame Beespeaker at 1 PM.
July 11th, Marine Day, Witty’s Lagoon, intertidal exploration, a beach clean-up, and seaside plant walks from 10 AM – 1 PM