Rediscover the Joys of the Outdoors, Naturally

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If there is one thing that our community has learned over the last year and a half, through changing lockdown measures and a lack of access to indoor spaces, it’s the power of nature.

When the indoors felt stifling, the outdoors offered a respite from stress and a literal breath of fresh air.

Studies have long shown that time spent in nature is essential for the health and development of children and youth, from an increased capacity for creativity and problem-solving seen in children who regularly play in nature, to better concentration in children with ADHD after walking in a park, and much more.

The benefits of spending time outside do not stop there; studies have shown that living in cities makes it harder for children and youth to understand the relationships between urbanization, habitat loss, and species decline. This lack of scientific knowledge and awareness has been called the “extinction of experience.”

The Riverwood Conservancy’s Education Naturally program is an innovative education initiative that builds scientific literacy through connections to nature.

Delivered in Riverwood’s unique urban oasis, Education Naturally allows children to rediscover the joy and wonder of nature, forming connections that will last a lifetime.

Through exciting experiences in one of the richest ecosystems in the Credit River watershed, students build the skills for positive youth development: competence, confidence, connection, caring, and character.

Each program is developed to address the growing needs of children today, taking action to preserve nature through stewardship activities and learning to give back to the community.

While spending time in nature, students learn about science through hands-on experiences like examining insects through magnification tools, engaging in citizen science and ecosystem monitoring, and using GPS and geocaching tools.

Childhood interactions with nature shape our attitudes and behaviour towards the environment, so programs that get children excited about spending time outdoors and address fears about being in natural spaces are more necessary than ever before in our changing world.

To thrive in today’s world, research shows children need stronger connections to nature and a better understanding of the world around them. However, connecting to nature depends on access, and that access is often unequal.

The Riverwood Conservancy’s Education Naturally program provides accessible nature education programs to children ages four to 14 in the Peel Region. In an effort to break down barriers to access, the cost of participation is less than $10/day per student, and further subsidies are available when needed.

Beyond socioeconomic factors that keep youth from engaging in outdoor experiences, barriers also exist for marginalized communities. As part of their mission to uncover and restore a love of nature in youth, the Education Naturally team are exploring innovative methods to integrate anti-racism into program curricula, including Indigenous Science Education.

With the support of donors and community members, their work will continue to strengthen the connection between youth and nature.

Learn more and donate at theriverwoodconservancy.org/natureforkids

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The Riverwood Conservancy (TRC) is a volunteer and member-based charity that provides programs and services focused on environmental education, conservation, gardening, and horticulture.

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