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Students take a walk on the wild side at East Don Parklands

April 27, 2015 Ontario Provincial
Students take a walk on the wild side at East Don Parklands

Barrie, Ont. – Cold temperatures and a little snow didn’t stop a group of local students from getting outside and getting a little wild last week. Fortunately, it’s the kind of wild that puts a smile on their teachers’ face.

On Thursday, April 23rd, two local grade 4 classes pulled on their touques and rubber boots, and joined students from Sir John A. MacDonald Collegiate Institute’s Specialist High Skills Major – Environment program, at Toronto’s East Don Parklands. Thanks to sponsorships from TD Friends of the Environment and State Farm® Youth Advisory Board, 60 elementary students participated in Ducks Unlimited Canada’s (DUC) wetland education program, Project Webfoot – a program that aims to connect elementary students with nature through safe, interactive and inspiring educational content both inside and outside the classroom.

Sir John A. MacDonald Collegiate Institute students on the other hand, were the ones leading Thursday’s field trip. Through DUC’s Wetland Centres of Excellence program, secondary students tackle hands-on wetland action projects and are becoming advocates for the environment through the preparation and delivery of mentored wetland field trips to local grade 4 classes.

“It is so important for kids to have the opportunity to get outside and experience nature for themselves,” says Matthew Sheehan, teacher for Sir John A. MacDonald. “Through Ducks Unlimited Canada’s Wetland Centres of Excellence program, our students are engaged in practical, hands-on activities. Learning how to be enthusiastic interpreters and teaching younger students about the value of habitats, and wetlands in particular, are valuable skills they simply can’t learn from a book. ”

According to Krystal Hewitt, education specialist for DUC, Sir John A. MacDonald Collegiate Institute is one of nine secondary schools across Ontario engaged in the Wetland Centre of Excellence program.

“This service-learning approach to environmental education provides opportunities for students to connect with nature and develop a sense of ownership and responsibility” says Hewitt. “This program helps students elicit positive change in their communities and local environments, become advocates for the environment and wildlife as well as build character and develop skills to carry forward with them into their lives and future careers.”

“The State Farm Youth Advisory Board supports programs that offer students hands-on, service-learning experiences and the Wetland Centre of Excellence is a perfect example of this,” says John Bordignon, Media Relations with State Farm. “State Farm Canada promotes initiatives like these because they integrate community service with real world educational curriculum. The Wetland Centre of Excellence allows students to learn about an integral natural environment while fostering an understanding of civic responsibility.”

“Wetlands are one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth – second only to rainforests,” adds Hewitt. “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. It is such an amazing experience to see students with dip nets, looking at the critters that live in our local waters, and learning about all the benefits wetlands provide their own local communities, first hand.”

“We are proud to support the Wetland Centres of Excellence, run by Ducks Unlimited Canada,” says Carolyn Scotchmer, Regional Manager, TD Friends of the Environment. “It is inspiring to see high school students take such a strong role in teaching younger participants about the environment.”

Thanks to the generous support from organizations such as TD Friends of the Environment and State Farm® Youth Advisory Board, DUC has helped more than 80,000 students across the province to date, learn about the importance of wetlands and conservation.

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

Contact Information

Joanne Barbazza
Communications Specialist, Ontario
Ducks Unlimited Canada
(705) 721-4444 ext. 240