NatureHood Partner spotlight: Nature NB
NatureHood is a national program of Nature Canada, with a goal of connecting people of all ages to nature in their neighbourhoods – aka their NatureHoods! Through strong partnerships with our grassroots naturalist clubs and organizations across Canada, NatureHood promotes nature awareness and exposes a new generation of nature lovers.
Nature NB’s Citizen Science Programs offer New Brunswickers opportunities to learn not only about the diverse bird and plant species in their communities, but also about the importance of environmental stewardship. More recently, a new set of programs were added specifically targeting youths under the appropriate name of Junior Citizen Science Programs.
Junior Citizen Science Programs operate mostly within schools and seek to educate students about the importance of the environment around them. All programs start with a short presentation teaching students about their chosen topic and then taking them outside to apply their new knowledge in a hands-on way. During the 2016 year, a variety of programs were offered for schools to choose from including FeederWatch, Animal Tracking and PlantWatch.
FeederWatch programs have students making their own bird feeders to set up around the schoolyard. They check the feeder periodically to observe and make notes of the kinds of birds that hang around. FeederWatch programs generally take place during the autumn and winter months, so this gives students a good opportunity to learn about both the migratory birds on their way south for the winter, and the kinds of birds that stick around even when it gets cold. By the end of the program, students have a greater knowledge of the birds that live in their area and how the changing seasons affect them.
Students participating in an Animal Tracking program have the opportunity to take a look at some of the wild animals living in their community. Mud traps are set up in an area chosen by the students (typically near their school or at a nearby park) and then baited to attract animals. The traps are left overnight to give wild animals a chance to walk all over them so that they’re covered in tiny footprints in the morning. Students are then able to identify the animals who left those footprints and are encouraged to think about the habitats and lifestyles of those animals.
PlantWatch programs have students set up their own monitoring quadrant – a small area that is marked off from its surroundings – and then observing the plant life within it. Students count the number of individual plants and different species found in their area in order to learn about the local plant life in their community and note when the plants bloom. Once the students are finished their observations and counts, Nature NB returns to do a review of what was found and discuss the importance of plant blooming time as an indicator of climate change.
In October and November of 2016 alone, 18 classrooms participated in programs through Nature NB and feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive. The programs are linked with the schools’ curricula to show both students and teachers the real-world applications of the activities and encourage them to continue their ecological education even after the program is finished. Nature NB’s Junior Citizen Science programs will be returning full-force in spring 2017.