Monday, 31 December 2012

A Time with the Snowy Owls

For the second year now, we have taken time to view one of the resting points in the Snowy Owl migration route. They travel hundreds of miles south and rest in a part of the Pacific Flyway located at Boundary Bay in BC.  When they arrive, they are totally exhausted and often starving.  Unfortunately, many of them don't make it this far, but those who do are the best of the best, and they rest.  They find logs or secluded grassy areas to sit and recuperate from the ultimate energy expenditure.  Signs are posted all along the dyke warning   people not to disturb the birds by getting too close and forcing them to fly away.  Even this small relocation may cause the difference between survival or not.  People adhere to the signs and respect the fragile lifeline these amazing birds cling to.

My brother and I walk quietly along the dyke and spot white blotches along the muddy area between the bay and the shoreline.  As we near the area where the owls are resting, we get a better view.  They are silent statues of weariness and may only turn their heads to see around them.  They are conserving vital energy. We stand in awe of them and try to imagine the miles they have migrated and their measure of survival.  They  are absolutely beautiful birds and their white or spotted bodies and penetrating eyes astound both of us.

A bonus this year, was the tremendous activity that was taking place on the opposite side of the dyke.  Short eared owls were quite active flying, searching, "barking" and seemingly playing in a fenced electrical area. We had never seen owls so active in such a small area and although at times they seemed to be hunting, they were also playing.  In addition to the owls, this area is home to eagles, hawks, herons, crows, red-winged blacks birds, in addition to the myriad of smaller birds that seemed to go unnoticed.  

We were in the presence of magnificence!  

Monday, 3 September 2012

Connecting Children With Nature
    One special event at our school takes place each month.  At the student recognition assemblies, we draw four names - two primary and two intermediate.  The lucky draw winners go on an outdoor outing with me, the principal.  Rather than take them for lunch or provide a special treat, we go on a nature excursion.  Each month the location changes so it is always a surprise to the students.  We have visited local parks, the beach, a marsh, various creeks, a reptile and Honeybee center in addition to bird sanctuaries and gardening locals.  These trips provide us a chance to get to know one another and talk about what we are learning.

     One of my fondest memories is of Linda.  She was in Grade 2, an extremely observant child who struggled with words and language.  During a walk along an estuary one afternoon, she pointed to a large bird and repeatedly called out, "Bird! Bird!"  We all quickly turned to look and sure enough, there was a beautiful Great Blue Heron standing by the shoreline. Linda wanted to know the name so I told her and we practiced until we arrived back at the school.  What was so inspiring is that she continued to visit me at the office until she remembered the name of the Great Blue Heron and she said it correctly.

     The Great Blue Heron made an impact on Linda, and the experience made a lifetime memory for me.

A few years ago, I was fortunate to read Richard Louv's book entitled Last Child in the Woods.  The implications of children not growing up in and around nature and natural environments have profound affects on their development, their spirituality and their connection with themselves and others.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Outdoor Club  2011-2012
Last year we started an Outdoor Club at our school that was funded through a Community School Partnership.  Approximately 80 grade 3-7 students participated in various hikes and snowshoeing trips throughout the year.  High school mentors, volunteers community members, teachers and parents helped with the supervision and learning.  We started with a team building session at the school that involved helping kids learn how to prepare for the outdoor adventures.  The sessions included lessons on packing, food, clothing, working together and ethical conduct in nature. Some of the comments from the participants included:
     - want to join again
     - learned how to enjoy being outside even in the rain
     - wish we could stay overnight and camp
     - I will be joining next year
     - Even though I am finished school, I would like to return as a mentor for the younger students.

We wanted to take the group to different geographical environments such as the beach, a marsh, a lake and a creek or river. The Minnekhada Park is a great example of a marshy area but it also has knolls great for day hikes for kids.
Minnekhada Park - Port Coquitlam, BC.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Origin...

     Like many, most of my childhood was spend outdoors.  My siblings, I and our friends would spend countless hours outside creating games, inventing characters, climbing trees, running through acres of bush and naturally discovering the sting of the stinging needle or wasp and the scratch of the blackberry bush. Although not always pleasant, they were fond memories indeed and I learned to love the natural places around my home.
     Recently, I attended a session with Sandra Friedman, BSW, MA on "Promoting and Enhancing Mental Health Wellness" in children.  One of the critical factors in helping children (and others for that matter), maintain health and wellness is to encourage a healthy relationship with nature.  The following words were quoted:

                                      The old Lakota were wise,
                      They knew that a child's heart away from Nature
                     soon hardened, that a lack of respect for living things
                          soon led to a lack of respect for humans, too...
                                so they kept their children close to
                                      Nature's softening influence.

This is where I will start ...