The 2015 EECOM Awards of Excellence were announced at the Earth Matters Conference in Canmore AB. Congratulations to all the recipients for being such role models for EE in Canada!
Outstanding Governmental Governing Body
Learn to Camp, Ontario
Outstanding K-12 Class, Teacher, School or School District
Kendra Martin, Little Falls Public School, Ontario
Outstanding Non-Profit Organization or Individual (two awards)
Monica Nissen, Wildsight, British Columbia
Susan Hemphill, Scout Island Nature Centre, British Columbia
Outstanding Post-Secondary Institution, Department, Program or Club
Enviro Western, Western University
Outstanding Youth Leader/Youth-led Organization
GOT Parks, Canada-wide
In 2011, Ontario Parks’ launched its Learn to Camp program. Learn to Camp has three core objectives:
The heart of the Learn to Camp program is the overnight learning sessions. Families or small friends groups join with nine other families to spend two days and one night at a park. Two Ontario Parks Learn to Camp leaders guide participants through their first camping experience. Campers are made to feel safe and supported. The focus is on creating a memorable first parks experience so that participants want to return to parks and have the skills to feel comfortable.
Teaching sessions include setting up a tent, cooking on a campstove, lighting a campfire and camping safely. Participants are also taught the principles of “leave no trace” camping. They learn to respect and show care for the park environment. Finally, campers have the opportunity to learn a little bit about the natural environment, the plants and animals of Ontario.
Families taking the Learn to the Camp program are supplied with most of the equipment they need for the weekend – tent, dining shelter, campstove, lantern and cooler. Campers only need to bring bedding and food.
Nine parks currently offer the Learn to Camp program. These parks were selected because they are the closest to Toronto and other urban centres.
The overwhelming response to Learn to Camp has shown that there was pent up demand just waiting for Ontario Parks to create this program. Since 2011, over 2,000 groups (over 9,000 individuals) have attended a Learn to Camp weekend.
Kendra Martin had a vision two years ago to get kids plugged back into nature. She began a Forest School Program at Little Falls Public School for her grade 2 class in September of 2013, which, in just two years, has expanded to include eight classes at her school for the 2015-2016 year.
The program immerses children in nature to teach all subjects and disciplines across the curriculum while promoting stewardship of the natural world. Up to half of each day is spent outside and one day a week is spent at an off-site farm/forest where the children have the unique opportunity to revisit the same site throughout the seasons, allowing them to make connections and reflect on nature. Forest School students learn about native plants and wildlife and study their habitats and growth cycles. They also have hands-on experience when learning about watersheds, agriculture and conservation and participate in tree planting as well as a seed project to grow edibles.
Students of the Forest School Program become reflective, appreciative and caring about their world, hopefully guiding them to become future leaders who are caring and connected with their community environment and engaged in life. Kendra quotes: “I have felt great concern for the health, emotional well-being and the future effects if we miss this integral part of child development and end up with a population who are not invested in sustaining a healthy planet. Building nature connections with children is a critical balance we need to strike in public education right now.”
A passion for the wilderness and a gift for teaching drew Monica Nissen into the field of environmental education where she has worked both inside and outside the classroom for the past 20 years. From guiding mountaineering trips to designing workshops on sustainability leadership, to describing the life cycle of the spawning salmon, Monica has spent the last two decades developing and delivering educational programs that inspire a love for nature and a stewardship ethic. In the early 90’s, Monica spent several years working as a park interpreter researching, developing, and conducting education programs for visitors to national, provincial, and municipal parks and conservation areas. In 1999, Monica returned to school and in a year’s time graduated with a Bachelor of Education from UBC’s West Kootenay Teacher Education Program.
Monica then took her commitment to environmental education province-wide. Initially hired as an Environmental Educator by Wildsight— an organization that advocates for the protection of biodiversity and healthy human communities in Canada’s Columbia and Rocky Mountains ecoregion— Monica now assumes the role of Program Manager. Monica is also a committed volunteer for the Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network, in which she is a Wild Voices for Kids Community Educator and continues to host CBEEN’s Voices for Sustainability Symposium – an annual gathering for environmental educators that she founded nearly a decade ago. She is also a tireless classroom teacher, WildBC facilitator, Know Your Watershed Educator, Kootenay Community Bat Project Educator, Stream of Dreams Educator, Adventure, Tourism, Leadership and Safety Program Leader, and a West Kootenay Teacher Education Program Teacher, among countless others.
Nature is not “out there”; it’s in us, and it’s part of everything we do – breathing, eating and drinking, working, playing. – Monica Nissen
Over the past twelve years, Susan’s impact on this resource-based community has been profound. She has worked tirelessly collaborating with local teachers to integrate nature studies and environmental awareness into curricula. As a result, thousands of children have been introduced to the natural wonders of their immediate environment. In addition to this, she has supplemented classroom learning with hands-on, multi-sensory experiences.
Her dedication extends to educating the educators. By taking classes to natural habitats within walking distance of their schools, she opens teachers’ eyes to place-based learning opportunities. She has directly mentored dozens of teacher-naturalists, and inspired UBC teacher candidates to see the outdoors as essential to their toolkits. Professional Development Day programs bring educators to the nature centre to introduce use of the outdoor classroom, and to integrate environmental learning across the curriculum.
EnviroWestern is a club that has run sustainability-related student services and addressed environmental issues at Western University for more than a decade. The already-vibrant club expanded during the 2014-15 school year, yielding a larger volunteer pool, more educational programs, and strong connections with other organizations, and the club is now an outstanding example of a post-secondary environmental club, worthy of nomination for the EECOM award of excellence in environmental education.
EnviroWestern ran four major campaigns in the 2014/15 academic year; EnviroWeek in October, Refill to Win in February-March, World Water Week in March, and Greenest Campus Western throughout the entire year. These campaigns complement seven specific services the club offers on campus; EnviroResearch Link, Green Education Program, Residence Outreach, Green Building Tours, GROW Greenhouse, Reusability, and Campus Clean Up. On top of this broad reach, the club ran several major educational events throughout the year including sustainability orientation, a waste sorting challenge and live waste audit, eco-schools conference, seeding ideas speaker series, buy nothing make something, clothing swap, refill to win and the food for thought gala.
Get Out To (GOT) Parks is a dynamic and interactive online space where young people can easily access and share information about parks in Canada. The project is an initiative of the Canadian Parks Council and has been create in partnership with the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada’s youth-led Natural Leaders Alliance. The site was designed and is being maintained by the GOT Parks Team, a group of 18 young Canadians with a passion for connecting other young people with parks. The purpose of the GOT Parks website is to create an online space that is engaging and informative. The site invites young Canadians to share stories, find jobs, discover park programs, and more!