Thursday, 19 April 2018

Taught by Nature: The Importance of Outdoor Education

“Lead your child into nature, teach him on the hilltop and in the valleys. There he will listen better, and the sense of freedom will give him more strength to overcome difficulties. But in these hours of freedom, let him be taught by nature rather than by you. Let him fully realize that she is the real teacher and that you, with your art, do nothing more than walk quietly at her side. Should a bird sing or an insect hum on a leaf, at once stop your walk. Bird and insect are teaching him; you may be silent.” Johann Pestalozzi (1746-1827) 

As a child, Melanie Elliott spent a month every summer at Long Point Provincial Park in Ontario. “All there was to do was catch tadpoles, turtles, and snakes,” she says. “I remember saying to my Mum, ‘This clam followed me home – can I keep it?’”

Children nowadays have far less opportunity to roam outdoors, collecting insects, rodents, or snakes. There’s more fear and less time. Melanie, a long-time outdoor educator who has only recently retired from the University of Saskatchewan and a founding member of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan, is passionate about reversing that trend: “Kids need to know nature is safe,” she says. “So many kids are scared of bees and wasps. I like to give them a chance to hold a beetle or a caterpillar. Salamanders and snakes aren’t pretty or cute, but they have their own charm if you take the time to observe.”

And time is just what Melanie provided when she took Grade 2 classes to spend a day at Saskatoon Natural Grasslands. She’d have the kids lie down in the grass and “bond to the prairies.” Using all five senses, they could see the wind pulling the grass, listen for birds and insects, feel the sun and know when a cloud passed over it.

Melanie coordinated Ecology Camps for Kids, offered by the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) during summer holidays and Easter breaks, for many years. Bird banding was a favorite activity as the participants could actually hold a baby bird. Other kids held out for the wetland camp. They’d visit a different wetland every day, walking barefoot and feeling the mud squish between their toes. The dinosaur camp went to Herschel where the students would dig in the sand for bones.

Instructors were encouraged to get involved and to look for the teachable moments. “Kids can understand complex concepts if they can see it and feel it,” Melanie says. “If you’re standing on a hill in Saskatoon Natural Grasslands and you see buildings all around you, you understand that the area is an island.”

Ecology Camps for Kids were the only U of S camps that took kids off campus. The University was concerned about safety, but Melanie knew how important it was for kids to be outside. Every day they would go somewhere different – Wanuskewin, Beaver Creek, Pike Lake.

A quote from Helen Keller underpins Melanie’s beliefs:

"Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." 

And, in closing, another one of the quotes that Melanie has collected over the years:

“If you keep this wide-open feeling of always being on the brink of new discoveries, then you will be on the way to becoming a real naturalist, for no one can claim to be a naturalist who does not continually have a seeking, exploring, and thrilling mind.” Vinson Brown, Investigating Nature through Outdoor Projects 

See Also
Outdoor Activities for Children and Youth 
Outdoor Learning: “The Absolute Best” 
Education for Sustainability: A Conversation with Janet McVittie

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

EcoSask News, April 17, 2018

nest building

Upcoming Events
Mad Scientists, Apr. 21 (Moose Jaw) 
Kids are invited to experiment with food, electricity, building supplies, and more at the Moose Jaw Public Library, 10:30-11:30 am, Apr. 21.

A E Wilson Park Walk, Apr. 21 (Regina) 
Nature Regina is hosting a bird walk at A E Wilson Park from 9 am – 12 pm, Apr. 21.

Earth Day @ Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Apr. 22 (Regina) 
The Royal Saskatchewan Museum is hosting Earth Day celebrations on Apr. 22.

Red Squirrels, Apr. 22 (Preeceville) 
Andrea Wishart will talk about red squirrels at the Kelsey Ecological Society meeting at 2 pm, Apr. 22, Club 60, Preeceville.

A Waste-Conscious Life, Apr. 22 (Saskatoon) 
Find out how to lead a waste-conscious life at 11 am, Apr. 22, at Bulk Basket in Saskatoon.

Prairie Falcon, Apr. 23 (Moose Jaw) 
Larry Going will bring his Prairie Falcon to the Apr. 23 meeting of the Moose Jaw Nature Society.

Intro Bicycle Tune-Up Workshop, Apr. 23 (Saskatoon) 
Bridge City Bicycle Co-op is offering an introductory workshop on how to fix your bike from 6:30-8:30 pm, Apr. 23.

Trans Am Bike Race Talk, Apr. 23 (Saskatoon) 
Meaghan Hackinen will talk about her experiences as the first Canadian woman to complete the Trans Am Bike Race at 7 pm, Apr. 23.

Disruption, Apr. 25 (Regina) 
Join Cinema Politica Regina for a screening of Disruption about why we do so little when we know so much about climate change at 7 pm, Apr. 25.

Waste Reduction & Composting, Apr. 25 (Regina) 
Celebrate Earth Day by learning how to reduce waste and compost from 7-8:30 pm, Apr. 25, Central Adult Library.

Indian Elephant Conservation, Apr. 25 (Saskatoon)
Find out about Indian elephant wildlife conservation efforts at 1:30 pm, Apr. 25. Pre-registration is required as space is limited.

Help Find Hawks, Apr. 30 (Avonlea) 
Join Nature Conservancy of Canada on a ferruginous hawk survey the week of Apr. 30-May 4. Previous experience isn’t necessary.

International Dark Sky Week, April 15-21

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
Apr. 20, 7-9 pm – members-only Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek Evening Visit
Apr. 26, 8 am – Meacham Artists & Sloughs (Golden Eagles)
May 3, 8:30 am – Chorney Acreage (Golden Eagles)
May 5, 9 am-12 pm – Waterfowl trip to Porter Lake
May 6, 7-9:30 am – MVA Trail Bird Walk
May 10, 7:30 am – Goose Lake (Golden Eagles)
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In the News
City of Saskatoon's 2018 environmental grants support some great projects, including NatureCity Festival, waste reduction and composting, clean water, and bats

Wellington, NZ, hopes to become the first predator-free capital city in the world. But how can that be? We are all both predator and prey; altering the food chain is sure to have unintended consequences.

Restoration ecology - let nature do its work and don’t rely on biodiversity offset programs - they don’t work

What will we do with all those solar panels when their useful life is over?

Wildlife is adapting rapidly to an urban environment raising questions about the value of wildlife corridors and the use of native plants

Books on urban wildlife - New York Public Library recommendations

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Cathy Watts, Cycling Advocate

“I spent my working life getting one person who’d had a stroke to move,” Cathy Watts, Saskatoon Cycles, says. “Now I’m trying to get the whole city moving!”

As a physiotherapist working in the neurological and geriatric field and an avid cyclist since she was 8 years old, Cathy Watts has always advocated for health promotion and an active lifestyle: “I rode to university. I took my kids around town on my bike. My husband and I even go on cycling holidays.”

“I love Saskatoon,” Cathy says. “It’s the perfect city for fabulous bike lanes and we’ve already accomplished so much. But there’s so much more that can be done. I want to make Saskatoon a safe place for my grandchildren, who are already proficient cyclists, to ride their bikes.”

Cathy’s underlying optimism is a key ingredient in her success as a cycling advocate. Saskatoon Cycles’ progress in less than 10 years is phenomenal.

Saskatoon Cycles
In 2009, Sean Shaw initiated monthly cycling discussions. As the group grew, the organizers decided to formalize the arrangement and Saskatoon Cycles was incorporated in 2010. Cathy Watts has been chair or co-chair ever since.

Maintaining an advocacy organization is never an easy task. Cathy underlines the importance of establishing your purpose and direction through vision and mission statements. “Then you can see a path,” she says.

Another challenge is building your membership and maintaining a strong, stable board with both time and skills. The group’s fundraising efforts have paid off and they have recently hired a part-time operations manager who will focus on communications, fundraising, and event planning, and Cathy believes that will make a big difference.

Saskatoon Cycles’ principal focus is on advocacy; however, they also hold events as a way to draw in new members. Long before the City of Saskatoon was promoting the winter city concept, Saskatoon Cycles was drawing crowds to winter cycling events, including a moveable feast, speakers, and rides.

The organization also operates the Bike Valet, parking 6300 bikes at 8 festivals last summer. In addition to providing a service and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Bike Valet builds community. Volunteers include new Canadians, people with mental health issues, and individuals who take holiday time in order to help out. “It’s become a small family unit,” Cathy says.

Four Steps to Successful Advocacy
Cathy believes successful advocacy has four key ingredients.

1. Encourage, Be Patient, Stay Positive. Cathy believes that the most effective approach to lobbying on a municipal level is to encourage, be patient, and remain positive. She recognizes that the downtown bike lanes aren’t perfect and the choice of 23rd Street, which passes through the bus terminal, was a compromise, but believes that if you do nothing but complain, you won’t get anything. “We have to support the City planners for what they’ve done with a very small budget.”

The approach has paid off as Saskatoon Cycles has also invested the time to develop strong relationships with local administrators and officials. In recent years, they’ve partnered with Saskatoon Police Service to hand out bicycle lights and to encourage people to register their bikes as a theft prevention measure. In addition, Cathy isn’t afraid to speak out strongly – but she does it in private, not in public.

2. Provide Expertise. One of the first major events organized by Saskatoon Cycles was a Cycling Summit. The organization pulled together 24 experienced cyclists and invited Kay Teschke of Vancouver to talk about the need for safe cycling infrastructure. The group spent a day designing safe routes to downtown Saskatoon from all parts of the city. A City Councillor and administrator attended the meeting and the maps were taken into consideration in preparing the City’s Active Transportation Plan. More recently, Saskatoon Cycles provided City Council with a review of the City’s cycling bylaw prepared by a pro bono lawyer and law student.

3. Establish a Plan. A recent workshop provided Cathy with a template for planning an effective advocacy campaign. The template recognizes that organizations have limited capacity and must use it efficiently to maximize impact, guiding them through the process of identifying their goal, capacity, and allies.

4. Work Together. Saskatoon Cycles was an active partner in Livable YXE prior to the last municipal election. The group engaged candidates in a discussion about the factors that ensure a positive quality of life for city residents, publishing the results of a survey that included questions about everything from housing and climate change to active transportation.

Active Transportation
Cathy and Saskatoon Cycles are key players in advocating for municipal policies that incorporate active transportation into all municipal decisions, addressing the underlying issues of poor road design and car-focussed transportation planning. Their efforts reduce the number of unnecessary deaths and injuries on our streets and promote a healthy lifestyle for all our citizens.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

EcoSask News, April 10, 2018

White pelican

Wild child adventures, a Fairy Hill marsh walk, and poplar potions - spring magic!

Upcoming Events
Poplar Potion, Apr. 12 (Saskatoon)
Walk through Poplar Bluffs and learn about the harvest and preparation of poplar buds from 5:30-7:30 pm, Apr. 12.

Leave No Trace, Apr. 12 (Saskatoon) 
Andrea Nelson, SaskOutdoors, will talk about how to care for the wildlands at 11:45 am, Apr. 12, Innovation Place Saskatoon.

Islands of Grass, Apr. 13 (Saskatoon)
Branimir Gjetvaj will present Islands of Grass at 2 pm, Apr. 13, at the Frances Morrison Library.

Saskatchewan Living Green Expo, Apr. 13-15 (Saskatoon)
The Saskatchewan Living Green Expo festival and trade-show is Apr. 13-15 in Saskatoon.

Birding Field Trip, Apr. 14 (Regina)
Join Nature Regina to look for mountain bluebirds and waterfowl on Apr. 14 along Route 99 and at Fairy Hills Marsh.

March for Science, Apr. 14 (Saskatoon)
March for Science Saskatoon is hosting March for Science on Apr. 14.

Climate Crisis Implications & Solutions, Apr. 16 (Regina)
Jared Clarke will discuss the climate crisis: implications and solutions for Saskatchewan at the 7:30 pm, Apr. 16 meeting of Nature Regina.

Environmental Society AGM, Apr. 18 (Saskatoon)
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society will hold their annual general meeting on Apr. 18 starting with a wine and cheese at 6:30 pm and a presentation by Christopher Spence, Global Institute for Water Security, at 7 pm.

Life in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Apr. 19 (Saskatoon)
Dr. Patricia Thomas will discuss Life in the Exclusion Zone: Chernobyl, Swallows, Wild Horses, Fungi, and Cesium-137 at the Apr. 19 meeting of the Saskatoon Nature Society.

Permaculture Saskatchewan AGM, Apr. 19 (Saskatoon)
Permaculture Saskatchewan will be holding their annual general meeting and showing the permaculture film Inhabit on Apr. 19.

SK Breeding Bird Atlas Workshop, Apr. 21 (Saskatoon)
The SK Breeding Bird Atlas is offering an introductory workshop on bird identification and using your birding skills to contribute sightings to the Atlas from 9 am-noon, Apr. 21.

white pelicans

Looking Ahead
Chaplin & Reed Lake Shorebird Survey, May 1-June 14 (Chaplin Lake)
The 4th annual Chaplin & Reed Lake Shorebird Survey is looking for volunteers to help them track the migratory shorebirds that travel through Chaplin Lake.

Nature Grandparenting, May 1-June 18 (Saskatoon)
Witness seasonal changes in nature with your grandchild during the spring session of Nature Grandparenting hosted by Wildernook Fresh Air Learning and SaskOutdoors on Tuesdays (2 sessions/day) from May 1-June 18 in Saskatoon.

Would You Like an Upcycled Art Workshop?, Sept. 23-30 (Saskatoon)
Medha Batt, an artist from India, will be travelling through Saskatoon from Sept. 23-30 and is interested in offering workshops or presentations emphasizing local environmental issues and using household discards to create art. Medha can be reached on her professional Facebook page.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Reading & Listening
Take a look at the new, Saskatchewan-based SLIP Channel, Canada’s weekly green living news magazine.

Happiness by Aminatta Forna is about the unseen residents of our cities: the foxes, coyotes, and parakeets but also the street sweepers, doormen, and dishwashers. Do we welcome these immigrants to our cities or do we reject them? Who is part of our community? (highly recommended by Penny)

Listen to a Defender Radio webinar on protecting coyotes and other wildlife and keeping human park users safe.

In the News
A Wild Child Adventure School for 3-12 year olds is being set up at Wild Spirit Prairie Sanctuary. The school will offer mini adventures for 3-5 year olds, after-school adventures for 5-12 year olds, and homeschooling Fridays.

The Lower Qu’Appelle Watershed has issued a Quality and Quantity Review providing a useful overview of the factors affecting our water supply.

"There’s a stark choice to be made: stick with GDP growth as our Prime Directive and continue to unpick the web of life, or evolve beyond it and create new possibilities for human and planetary flourishing."

The gigantic data centers that power the internet consume vast amounts of electricity and emit as much CO2 as the airline industry.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday, 5 April 2018

2018 Natural Areas Clean-Up Grants


Raising money for your club, sports team, or voluntary organization? EcoFriendly Sask is offering a limited number of $500 grants to clubs and voluntary organizations for cleaning up a natural area in or around their community.

Apply by sending us an email telling us about your group and your clean-up plans. We’ll let you know whether or not your grant application is approved. Groups that are approved for a grant will be sent a cheque once we’ve received a photograph of your clean-up crew and the garbage you’ve collected.

Saskatoon residents can participate in the Meewasin Annual Clean-up Campaign. City of Prince Albert is hosting a Pitch-in Week from May 7-13. Pitch-In Week campaigns are being held in various other Saskatchewan locations from April 22-29. You can also join or lead a clean-up as part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up.

EcoFriendly Sask informs, encourages, and supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication and EcoFriendly Action Grants. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

EcoSask News, April 3, 2018

gopher (Richardsons ground squirrel)

This week’s news stories range from moose in the city and boxelder bugs to the importance of reclaiming the land when a coal mine closes. Enjoy!

Upcoming Events
Repair Café, Apr. 7 (Prince Albert)
Get help repairing household appliances, electronics, clothing, and furniture at Repair Café Prince Albert from 1-4 pm, Apr. 7.

Public Pastures Public Interest AGM, Apr. 7 (Regina)
Public Pastures Public Interest is holding their annual general meeting from 1-5 pm, Apr. 7. Join the discussion on current issues and future options for Community Pastures and other Crown grasslands.

Animal Sanctuary Tour, Apr. 8 (Moose Jaw)
Contact the Moose Jaw Nature Society if you want to join them on a tour of the Free To Be Me Animal Sanctuary from 11 am-1 pm, Apr. 8.

Household Hazardous Waste Day, Apr. 8 (Saskatoon)
You can dispose of household hazardous waste in Saskatoon from 9 am – 3:30 pm, Apr. 8.

Town Hall on Climate Change, Apr. 9 (Saskatoon)
Climate Justice Saskatoon is hosting a town hall meeting from 6-9 pm, Apr. 9, to discuss meaningful climate solutions in Saskatchewan.

Looking Ahead
Saskatoon’s Wild Side, Apr. 22 (Saskatoon)
Wild About Saskatoon is inviting individuals and community groups to help show off the wild side of Saskatoon by hosting an event during the 2018 NatureCity Festival, May 22-27. Submit your applications before Apr. 22.

Nature Saskatchewan Spring Meet, June 8-10 (Coronach)
Join Nature Saskatchewan June 8-10 for their spring meet in Coronach. There will be a bus tour of the Big Muddy Valley and Naomi and Jon Gerrard will give a presentation entitled “Learning from 50 Years with the Bald Eagles of Saskatchewan's Boreal Forest”.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar

In the News
University of Regina journalism students, in partnership with the National Observer, Toronto Star, and Global News have won an award for a documentary about the money and influence of Saskatchewan’s oil industry.

Boxelder Bugs - "there's a lot more to these little critters than you might think."

Saskatchewan's climate change strategy sets its sights on reducing emissions from large industrial emitters but doesn't tackle emissions from smaller industries according to Brett Dolter, University of Regina ecological economist.

Better food sources and lack of predators means moose are migrating to the prairies - and even the cities.

Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area is at the heart of North America’s central flyway, attracting hundreds of thousands of migrating birds each spring and fall.

Land reclamation is a key element of restoring communities when coal mines shut down.

Upgrades to Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital almost doubled the expected savings from energy, water, and operational improvements.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

EcoSask News, March 27, 2018

Canada Goose showing off

From light pollution to first aid and from Waskesiu to Fort Qu’Appelle and Stockholm - find out what’s happening in your community. Plus a handful of news stories you might not have seen. 

Upcoming Events
Waterfowl Monitoring Programs, Mar. 28 (Saskatoon) 
Blake Bartzen, Canadian Wildlife Service, will discuss waterfowl monitoring programs, at 3:30 pm, Mar. 28, at the final WildEcol seminar this season.

Cycling Speaker Series, Mar. 29 (Saskatoon)
Cathy Watts, co-chair of Saskatoon Cycles, is the first speaker in a Cycling Speaker Series hosted by Bridge City Bicycle Co-op and the Bike Doctor at 7 pm, Mar. 29.

Ferruginous Hawk Research, Mar. 31 (Fort Qu’Appelle) 
Ryan Fisher, University of Regina, will discuss ferruginous hawk research at the 7 pm, Mar. 31, meeting of the Fort Qu’Appelle Nature Society (Fort Qu’Appelle Train Station).

Spring Forest Safety, Mar. 31 (Waskesiu) 
Friends of Prince Albert National Park is hosting a spring forest safety workshop from 1-3 pm, Mar. 31, in Waskesiu. Topics will include survival equipment, cattails, and air to ground signals.

Our Common Future, Apr. 3-5 (Saskatoon) 
The Apr. 3-5 symposium showcases research projects completed by undergraduate students in the environmental programs and those participating in the Office of Sustainability’s Living Lab at the U of S.

Seed Swap & Gardening Talk, Apr. 4 (Stockholm) 
Stockholm Public Library is hosting a seed swap and prairie gardening talk from 6-8 pm, Apr. 4.

Regina Food Bank Greenhouse Tour, Apr. 4 (Regina) 
The Regina Permaculture Book Club has organized a tour of the Regina Food Bank Greenhouse at 1:30 pm, Apr. 4.

Urban Energy Systems: Lessons from Lulea, Sweden, Apr. 4 (Saskatoon) 
Martin Boucher, University of Saskatchewan, will discuss urban energy systems: lessons from Lulea, Sweden at the Apr. 4 meeting of the Saskatchewan Energy Management Task Force.

Design the Nightscape – Shaping Darkness, Apr. 4 (Saskatoon) 
Sabine de Schutter, Berlin, will discuss the potential and risks of light, highlighting projects taking the well-being of humans and animals into account as well as safety at 6:30 pm, Apr. 4

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for Natural Resource Management, Apr. 4 (webinar) 
Leila Benmerrouche, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, will discuss the development of UAV technology in combination with GIS and landscape modeling applications in a PCAP-SK webinar at noon, Apr. 4.

Common Goldeneye

Looking Ahead
Wilderness First Aid, Apr. 13-15 (Saskatoon)
SaskOutdoors is hosting a 20-hour Wilderness & Remote First Aid course, Apr. 13-15, close to Saskatoon.

Waste Reforum 2018, Apr. 18-20 (Regina) 
The annual Waste Reforum will be held from Apr. 18-20 in Regina.

First Aid for Paddlers, Apr. 28 (Saskatoon)
Back 40 Wilderness First Aid Training and Coldspring Paddling are offering a one-day first aid clinic geared specifically for paddlers from 9 am-4 pm, Apr. 28.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In the News 
Agricultural drainage in Saskatchewan is threatening our ecosystem and changing the natural landscape

Compensating, supporting and retraining workers is an important part of the transition to renewable energy

Freight contributes 10% of Canada's GHG emissions - here are 5 ideas for achieving a low-carbon freight industry

China's ban on international waste is forcing Canadian municipalities to rethink their recycling strategies

What will happen if, in our car-centric environment, we accept that a certain number of pedestrian deaths are an inevitable part of adopting autonomous vehicles?

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).