East York, Ont. – There’s something magical that happens when a child discovers tiny creatures living in a wetland or watches in wonder a great blue heron flying gracefully overhead. But for urban children, experiencing nature up close is often a rare event.
On Tuesday, May 12, Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), Go Green Cricket & Sports Field and Toronto and Region Conservation joined together to help a group of Toronto students experience the natural world first-hand. With support from DUC’s ongoing education program sponsors Ontario Trillium Foundation, TD Friends of the Environment and State Farm® Youth Advisory Board, today, this education partnership took the classroom outdoors.
More than 100 students from Valley Park Middle School (VPMS) and Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute (MGCI) dropped by the Go Green Cricket & Sports Field Wetland where they took in a guided nature walk, identified wetland critters, spent time on the viewing platform with binoculars and even made native wildflower seed balls that they can plant in their gardens at home. Through today’s activities, students had the opportunity to better understand wetland habitats and their importance to wildlife, people and their local community.
“We recognize that many urban children have few opportunities to interact with nature within their own communities of high-rises, roads and shopping malls,” says Lynette Mader, manager of provincial operations for Ducks Unlimited Canada. “The teachers and principals of Valley Park Middle School and Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute understand this reality and are committed to getting kids outdoors through the Wetland Centre of Excellence program.”
Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute is one of nine secondary schools across the province engaged in DUC’s Wetland Centre of Excellence program – a program where students tackle hands-on wetland action projects and are becoming advocates for the environment.
In an effort to raise awareness about the value of these local habitats, students participating in today’s workshop also learned about native and invasive plant species from the experts at Toronto and Region Conservation.
“Teaching today’s youth the value of preserving our natural world has never been more crucial,” Brian Denney, CEO of TRCA said. “Even young people who aren’t exposed to it as frequently as others can benefit by discovering what can be found in a wetland, a forest or a stream and how to protect them. In doing so, even urban students become stewards of nature and these priceless lessons can last a lifetime.”
Teaching children about nature and the great outdoors has never been more important in this province. Ontario is home to more than 40% of Canada’s population with the vast majority living in our rapidly expanding urban communities. As more and more people move into cities, Ontarians are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature and wildlife.
Wetlands are one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth – second only to rainforests. Besides providing habitat for hundreds of wildlife species, they naturally filter and store water, mitigate floods, droughts, storm surges and the effects of climate change. They provide enormous benefit to society yet we continue to lose them.
“Educating youth about wetlands and waterfowl is a big part of our mission at Ducks Unlimited Canada,” adds Mader. “We need to make sure all Ontarians, including young people, understand the conservation concepts and practices that will protect and sustain the health of precious natural resources like wetlands. Ontario needs an Action Plan to reverse the trend of wetland loss.
About Ducks Unlimited Canada:
Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is the leader in wetland conservation. A registered charity, DUC partners with government, industry, non-profit organizations and landowners to conserve wetlands that are critical to waterfowl, wildlife and the environment. To learn more, please visit ducks.ca.
About Go Green Cricket & Sports Field:
The Go Green Cricket & Sports Field is a $1.5 million not-for-profit community project led by community activists, students and parents from VPMS, MGCI and the Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park neighbourhoods. The name “Go Green” reflects the project’s storm water management focus with the field’s surface and underground storm waters draining to a demonstration bioswale and wetland, emphasizing the site’s location within the Don River Watershed.
About Toronto and Region Conservation:
With more than 55 years of experience, Toronto and Region Conservation helps people understand, enjoy and look after the natural environment. TRCA’s vision is for the Living City – a cleaner, greener and healthier place to live, for you today and for your children tomorrow. For more information, call 416-661-6600 or visit www.trca.on.ca.
Communications Specialist, Ontario
Ducks Unlimited Canada
(705) 721 4444 ext. 240