• Audrey Perun

“10 years back, 10 years forward”: Children, families and nature

In the time leading up to our Spreading Our Branches gathering on April 1st, we’ll feature the voices of place-based educators from around the Metro Vancouver area. This week’s feature highlights the recent gathering of place-based educators in Victoria. Thanks to Audrey Perun for attending and taking notes to share with other Metro Vancouver educators.

The Majestic Hatley Castle at Royal Roads University in Victoria hosted a group of nature-based minds on February 25, 2017. The gathering reunited environmental trail-blazers from the first held in 2007 with a vision of promoting and forming educational, outdoor, nature based learning opportunities for children.

The day was guided by reflection on past goals, the present achievements and growth accomplished, and in forming a collaborative vision toward the next 10 years - 2027.

Organizers Bob Peart, Sierra Club BC, and Richard Kool, Royal Roads University, facilitated the day and discussions. Keynote speaker Richard Louv, author and co-founder of the Children and Nature Network joined the group via Skype from San Diego. He remarked on the growing nature based learning momentum happening in Canada. He encouraged taking a stand for balance for our kids in schools in relation to technology. He promoted leadership toward a direction of healing and connection, leading with positive environmental phrases rather than negative. He remarked that diverse cultural groups within our society have much to contribute to our movement and the importance of understanding how nature is viewed. The realization that rural living and working the land equates poverty in some cultures. His thoughts going forward included the importance of family Nature Clubs, schoolyard gardens, and a cultural change in ideas.

The day was organized into 3 panels; the first consisted of Nature connections in urban spaces including Evergreen Foundation, Child Nature Alliance Canada, and Nick Stanger from Western Washington University. The second panel represented Nature preschool and K-5 programs. Panel 3 included Government and NGO Initiatives. Representatives from Nature Kids BC, The Robert Bateman Centre, WildBC, Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, and Saanich Parks.

The Honorable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of BC addressed the group congratulating participants for the number of programs, progress and accomplishments gained by the group. She referenced the book Storm Warning by Robert William Sandford as suggested it should be required reading for those in political circles noting she past on a copy to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. As part of Canada’s celebration of 150 years, she plans to visit 150 BC classrooms engaged in environmental initiatives and is open to invitations from schools wanting to celebrate their accomplishments.

Participants and panel guests formed groups and created paths from past practice to present and worked on a vision for the future. Some themes that were discussed for going forward included:

  • Providing nature connections in urban spaces – city as classroom

  • Create an environmental education council with appointed coordinators to assist in facilitating and initiating programs at schools.

  • Addressing and educating people about safety and risk factors

  • Establishing a central or core resource base that would serve as hub for accessing programs and information for use by all sectors

  • Bring nature into education - Nature houses in each school district

  • Mental health funding for nature programs though the Ministry of Health

  • All schools have a nature “upgrade” including gardens and green playgrounds

  • Connect corporate dollars to funding programs and school board partnerships

Dates and events to keep in mind:

Children and Nature Network conference April 18-21,2017 Vancouver.

9th World Environmental Education Congress Sept.9-15, 2017 Vancouver


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