Operation Wild: Pandemic Response
by Matt Koning (Operation Wild program Coordinator)
The Best of a Bad Situation
Operation Wild is a program of A Rocha Ontario that strives to provides opportunities for individuals with disabilities to connect with the natural world in meaningful ways. At A Rocha Ontario, we do this through environmental education and hands-on nature experiences. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that we are unable to provide in-person Operation Wild programming. However, even in a world wide pandemic, the need for all people to stay connected to the natural world remains — and is perhaps more important than ever! So we made it a priority to find ways for individuals with disabilities to connect with nature, even if it means doing so virtually.
A New Nature Channel
Our team is creating educational videos on a variety of topics ranging from birds, dragonflies and amphibians that anyone can watch in the comfort of their own home. It turns out we can still learn about the natural world even if it is from a distance! We also offer live, virtual programming to our partners that promotes a connection to the natural world and social interaction.
Quantifying Our Impact
What kind of impact has this programming had? We recognize that physically being in nature is very beneficial to the body and the mind, but it is less clear how beneficial this is when done virtually. It is helpful to quantify our impact, as well as to get an understanding of what participants have said.
For starters, our educational videos have over 600 views, and our live, virtual sessions have been attended by more than 380 participants.
From our virtual, live programming, we have learned that:
- 75% of participants feel a stronger connection to the natural world
- 83% of participants have been able to maintain and develop meaningful friendships and relationships
- 73% of participants feel more confident to go and explore nature on their own or with others
- 82% of participants feel more confident to share their knowledge of the natural world with others
It is those last two points that make us most excited; that even through virtual programming individuals feel more confident to go explore the natural world and to share that knowledge with others. We know that virtual programming is no substitute for experiencing the natural world in person with all of our available senses. Despite this, finding ways to remain connected to the natural world is vital to everyone’s health and wellbeing, and we are grateful that we have been able to find unique ways to make this happen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you would like to access some of our educational videos, you can do so here!