Sunday 13 September 2020

SaskOutdoors is for Everyone

“SaskOutdoors is for everyone, whether you’re a new or an experienced outdoors person,” says Heather Maurer, Vice-President. “Anyone who is interested in the outdoors can be a member.” SaskOutdoors’ mission is “to connect people of Saskatchewan to the outdoors and inspire a sense of curiosity and play within our natural environment by passionately delivering programs and services that promote awareness of outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship.”

Head to the SaskOutdoors’ website and you’ll be surprised to discover just how many programs and resources they offer. Upcoming events, both online and in person, include wilderness first aid training, canoe certification, and educational enrichment programs, such as Project WET and Project WILD.

The organization is also expanding its lending library. Members can borrow everything from bamboo poles and binoculars to water jugs and a solar oven. Backpacking stoves, tents, and fuel bottles have recently been added to the collection.

SaskOutdoors used to host primarily in-person events. This came to an abrupt halt with the COVID19 pandemic, but the organization has turned a potential roadblock into an opportunity. “Our events were normally held in Saskatoon and Regina or up north. By going online we’re hoping to highlight more of the province’s outdoor experts,” Heather says. “People from all over Saskatchewan can now access our programming.”
The organization has taken advantage of technology to launch a podcast about outdoor recreation and education with new episodes every 3 weeks. In the first episode of Let’s Talk Outdoors, the hosts talked with 15-year-old Zev Heuer about his 58-day canoe trip from Canmore to Missinipe. The most recent episode is a conversation with Kenton Lysak about citizen science, conservation, and Saskatoon's NatureCity Festival.

Another new initiative is an interactive map displaying videos of place-based teaching opportunities around the province. Teachers are invited to submit a video illustrating outdoor education in their favorite spot. Take a look at the videos that have gone up to date and you’ll find out that Buffalo Pound Provincial Park is an accessible location well suited to a diversity study or an introduction to fishing. A Saskatoon teacher has used the amphitheatre at River Landing to teach drama lessons (environmental theatre), social studies (Greek history), visual art (statue painting), and English (spoken word poetry performances).

Past webinars are posted on the SaskOutdoors’ website and include Group Excursion & Leadership Preparedness, Overnight (Emergency) Preparedness First Aid in conjunction with Back40 Wilderness First Aid, as well as instructional webinars on Navigating Risky Play and a panel discussion for teachers and outdoor educators.

SaskOutdoors is a professional growth network with the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation so many of their activities are designed to assist teachers and outdoor educators enhance their outdoor learning opportunities. For example, they’re offering an online early childhood education series in November to assist participants in levelling up their outdoor and environmental education experience and resources.

In addition to educational opportunities, SaskOutdoors delivers events for individuals and families to get together and have fun outdoors. Past events have included a winter camp, a diamond willow carving workshop, and a family paddle. “I have a one-year-old daughter,” Heather says. “I’d love to offer more programs for families with young children.”

SaskOutdoors is grateful to receive core funding from Saskatchewan Lotteries through the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association. “Their support of recreational activities allows us to focus on programming rather than spending a lot of time fundraising,” explains Leah Japp, SaskOutdoors’ General Manager.

You can follow SaskOutdoors on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Take out a membership for $10-30 and you’ll be eligible for a wide range of benefits including discounted registration rates for SaskOutdoors’ events and activities and a copy of the organization’s magazine, Of Land and Living Skies. You can also apply for grants for projects with an outdoor and/or environmental education or environmental action focus.