Gearing up for Summer in Manitoba!

An Interview with Lauren Ens and Kara Leblanc, Environmental Educators, By Marnie Klassen, Communications and Admin Assistant, A Rocha Manitoba 

June 1, 2022

Here in Winnipeg, we have finally emerged from an extraordinarily long winter and are ready for summer! Kara LeBlanc and Lauren Ens are our Environmental Educators and are in the depths of planning for a summer filled with day camps around Winnipeg.

Each summer, we run day camps for children in partnership with local churches. For most of July and August we get to learn and play together with many children in our urban ecosystems around the city. 

Lauren is a student at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) studying psychology and biology. She attended many camps growing up:

Lauren: You name it, I went to it. I did overnight, I did VBS … I have always had a love for camp and just being outside. I think I’m doing this job because I wish I could still be at camp as a kid! 

Kara is also a CMU student, and studies Communications and Media.

Kara: Similar for me – I went to overnight camp from Grade 3 to Grade 12. It was always the best part of my summer, sometimes the best part of my year! I really like bringing that experience to other kids so that they can have that too. 

(l-r) Lauren Ens and Kara LeBlanc

What are you hoping for this summer? 

Lauren: My favourite moment from last year’s camp is when you’d show kids something and they’d have an ah-ha moment. And I’m hoping for more of that this year!

One time we were critter-dipping and there was this boy who was causing a lot of trouble all week. So we sat down and I was like, there’s actually bugs in the water that you can find and catch, and he did not believe me!

Then he found a pond swimmer going crazy in the bucket and was like, they’re real! His eyes were huge, and then he was glued to the bucket and ID sheet for the rest of the day.

What do you want people to know about what environmental educators do when day camp isn’t happening? 

Kara:  We’re both still learning a lot of things about environmental education. So things like the John Stott Memorial Birding Day, going to help out at the Boreal Ecology Centre, or lunch-n-learns are really great, ’cause then we get to learn more, right? 

And then I feel like that helps us teach other people and we can help other people learn too.

Over this past year Kari Miller (our previous Environmental Education Coordinator) developed an education philosophy for A Rocha Manitoba. How is that influencing your work right now? 

Lauren: There’s a big emphasis in A Rocha and in the philosophy of knowing place and then loving place. So I think for me, as a kid I wish I was taught about my place more. 

I think that has really helped me to shape what we’re going to do this summer, ’cause we don’t necessarily have to have a strict curriculum, we can just be like, look what’s around me, look how beautiful it is

Kara: Lauren and I have talked about how frustrating it is when people say Winnipeg’s so ugly and boring.

Well, actually there is a lot of beauty! You actually have to look – there’s a lot to see where you live. So when we’re planning stuff, I think of ‘how can I help kids look.’

How do you see your work fitting into the broader scope of the environmental crisis?

Kara: For me, it’s hard when the conversation about the climate crisis is just based on fear because then I just feel like I’m shutting down. I think it’s exciting when we’re doing things that inspire kids and make them excited about acting instead of feeling like there’s no hope. 

Lauren: For example, this summer Kara and I want to have some guests to talk about this kind of thing – like people who bike everywhere. We can say to the kids, “this isn’t nature but this is how we can live as a community with nature better.”

How can people support you and pray for you this summer? 

Lauren: People could pray for joy with the kids. It’s naturally a fun environment, but it gets tiring. So to remember the joy!

Kara: Yes, and patience. What we’re doing is really important, and we want to be able to put all of our energy towards it, and to be patient and understanding with kids’ different needs. So people could pray that we can work well together to actually make it happen. 

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