Nature Academy Students in Action

Introducing “Conservation Kids!”

By Madison Martinez (Communications and Administrative Coordinator) and Sarah Bokma (Environmental Education Coordinator)

November 23, 2023

Providing enriching environmental education programming has been a priority for the A Rocha Ontario team for quite some time. Over the past few years, our outdoor school, Nature Academy, has been one of the main ways we facilitate hands-on educational experiences for children. Through this program, we invite our students to experience the natural world in new and transformative ways. One hope we have is that our programs help to give students the knowledge, tools, and motivation needed to care for the earth. To advance this hope, our wonderful Nature Academy team, led by Sarah Bokma (Environmental Education Coordinator), launched a new class “Conservation Kids!” this past fall.

Motivated by the desire to strengthen the connection between education and conservation, Sarah Bokma and Jeremy Petrusma (Conservation Coordinator) developed the Conservation Kids! class. This class, incorporated into our Sleuths (Gr.3/4) and Kettles (Gr.5/6) curriculum, was designed to give students the opportunity to go deeper in their understanding of conservation through independent projects. First, we taught our students about the “arms” of conservation (restoration, advocacy/raising awareness, creative arts (social/humanity), education, defending and protecting, and ecological research). Then, after sharing stories of what people are doing to promote conservation at A Rocha Ontario and around the world, students chose their own topics to explore through hands-on projects to advance conservation.

As this was the first time running the Conservation Kids! class, the Nature Academy team was not sure how it would go. Its independent nature relied on the receptivity of the students. Once the class got started, the positive response was immediate! Our educators were so thrilled by our student’s enthusiasm. Building upon what they had already learned at Nature Academy, our students dove right in with researching for their projects and coming up with ideas about how they could promote conservation.

Sarah explained, “I believe it demonstrates ‘fruit of labour’ as many of these kids have been steadily developing their ecological literacy over the term or over multiple years at our outdoor school. When presented with a project like this, they were ready to put what they learned into action!”

Most of our students picked native wildlife to focus on, study, and develop a conservation project around. For example, one student picked “garden care” as her area of focus and another “reforestation”. After studying their area of choice, projects ranged from writing poetry about beavers and creating bookmarks about endangered birds, to monitoring fish populations in the pond and educating others on the important role the monarch butterfly plays in our ecosystem. Each project served to promote care for species!

Through these projects, our students celebrated the beauty of their chosen species, educated others about habitats, and offered tangible ways to contribute to conservation work. For instance, some students undertook projects to create an informative written paper while others made presentations through diorama or posters. Other projects involved work to make a difference at the Cedar Haven Eco-Centre by planting saplings, hanging bird feeders, building bat boxes, removing invasive reed canary grass, and hammering in signs to educate hikers on salamander habitats. At the end of the term, we hosted a Conservation Kids! presentation session where parents and friends were invited to hear all about our students’ work.

This fall, Conservation Kids! was a huge success as a result of the wonderful projects our students achieved and the immense confidence and initiative our students developed and demonstrated! Through this experience, we got to see our Nature Academy students in action. We saw how wonder, knowledge and care for the earth were making a real difference in and through our students. We cannot wait to see what comes out of Conservation Kids! as this course continues in Nature Academy terms to come.

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