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Getting out into nature is for the birds
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Getting out into nature is for the birds

For bird enthusiasts that is!

Our NatureHood Partners were busy over the holidays helping kids and families explore nearby nature. From Halifax to Regina to Vancouver, hundreds of kids and families took part in the annual Christmas Bird Count for Kids (CBC4Kids). Inspired by the Christmas Bird Count, CBC4Kids is a fun winter activity and a great way for families to learn more about local urban birds and bird conservation.

Many of our NatureHood partners organized local CBC4Kids events that included nature walks led by volunteer guides to help identify local birds, followed by hot chocolate and snacks for the young citizen scientists to sip when they return. Their findings were then submitting through eBird, an online checklist managed by Bird Studies Canada.

Christmas Bird Counts for Kids are a great way to get kids active outdoors during the winter months and learn more about local winter birds and wildlife found in their area. Spending time in nature year-round will encourage kids to continue to explore the natural world and develop a long-lasting relationship with nature.

© Nature Alberta

Here’s a snapshot of a few of the CBC4Kids events that took place across the country:

Nova Scotia

The Young Naturalists Club of Nova Scotia held their 5th annual CBC4Kids at Point Pleasant Park in Halifax. They welcomed 100 participants and saw 25 bird species and 350 individual birds. Some kids even had the thrill of a chickadee land on their hand to eat seeds. The biggest excitement came when a bald eagle soared over the group!

Saskatchewan

Nature Saskatchewan held their annual CBC4Kids at Wascana Lake and had their best turn out yet with 93 participants. The four groups enjoyed the beautiful -5c weather as they counted a total of 12 bird species and 298 individuals. After the count, everyone enjoyed some hot chocolate and snacks as they listened to a presentation from Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation who brought two thirteen lined ground squirrels.

Alberta

Nature Alberta's Nature Kids had a great time looking for birds at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre in Red Deer. They started the day playing a bird migration game and then set off on the trails to explore nature. They found 8 different bird species such as Downy woodpeckers and Red-breasted nuthatches. They also found other animal signs such as, nests, moose droppings, and squirrel middens! (fun fact: squirrel middens is the mess they leave after eating).

British Columbia

NatureKids BC along with its partners held their 8th annual CBC4Kids at Stanley Park in Vancouver with 100 keen birdwatchers of all ages. Participants were led through a bird identification training session prior to the count to help identify the birds they saw. Here is a lovely message that was sent their way following the bird count:

"Our family had a wonderful time at the Christmas Bird Count at Stanley Park. We sincerely appreciated all of the care that went into putting this day together. The facilitators were extremely kind to us, we loved the activities/snacks, and we truly enjoyed going out for the count with our enthusiastic and joyful group leader. Thank you very much for your work in putting this together for all of us!"

With sincere gratitude,
Jen, Dylan, Nala & Makaio 

Nature journaling, a powerful experiential learning journey
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Nature journaling, a powerful experiential learning journey

Landscapes have always offered me an embodied experience to cultivate the more holistic aspects of self and I intentionally seek them. I first started a nature journaling practice in Costa Rica and I would visit the same spot for an hour day-after-day and observe things big and small in the dynamic interplay of what’s ‘out there.’ Nature journaling involves the regular recording of observations and experiences with the natural world. As time slows down, you become attuned to your surroundings and take notice of the different sounds, play of light, and shades of colour. Since returning home, I have taken up nature journaling with my family, as an activity that can be enjoyed outdoors and indoors, especially in the winter months! Here are some tips on how to nature journal with kids:

  • Nature journaling can take on many different shapes like drawing, painting, writing poetry, or recording detailed observations. There is no wrong or one right way to nature journal.
  • Anything can be a topic for drawing such as a spider in her web or even a household companion.
  • Nature journaling can be as simple as observing birds that come to your bird feeders and drawing a particular bird’s postures. What is that bird doing? What does their call note or song sound like?
  • Topics of discussion with your children can be about the relationships between the different ecologies like for example, between a bumblebee and a flower.
  • Sound mapping involves paying attention to what you hear. This activity can involve closing your eyes, and drawing and locating the different sounds with different colours on paper. What do you hear? Why do certain sounds seem louder than others?
  • Nature journaling is an activity that can be enjoyed during Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter! We especially enjoy noticing the birds during their annual migration. Which birds come back first and which ones arrive later?
  • Notice the changes that are happening as you are observing the environment. Draw the position of the clouds. Do they stay in the same spot or are they moving?
An excellent book “Keeping a nature journal: Discover a whole new way of seeing the world around you” written by Clare Walker Leslie & Charles E. Roth offers a detailed account on how to nature journal throughout the seasons. This blog post dedicated to Leesa Fawcett who taught me about nature journaling for environmental education.

Mom Approved: Nature-Based Activities to Get Outside this Winter!
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Mom Approved: Nature-Based Activities to Get Outside this Winter!

I've been thinking a lot about winter activities as I find, as a mother of a four-year-old, that winter can be a more challenging season to get outside and explore. Some of the best nature experiences that I've had with my daughter have been just exploring in the forest and seeing what emerges. Here are some nature-inspired activities for enjoying the natural world during the winter season Make a healthy homemade suet as a fun activity to feed those backyard visitors. Even when it's difficult to get outside, we still observe what the birds are doing. Break out those binoculars to identify the birds and look at their field marks or coloration. Snowshoeing is a healthy, fun way to explore the forest and get some exercise in the winter months. Tracking is an engaging way to learn about wildlife to demystify where they’ve been, where they’re going, and what they’ve been doing. By looking at tracks, you can identify which animals made these tracks or try to trace the origin of the tracks by following them. Nature journaling can direct our attention to ‘place’ and changes over time, and can be done indoors and outdoors. It’s a way to cultivate our inner naturalist or those feelings of feeling connected to the natural, more-than-human world.


Additional Resources: There are many cities that offer free nature-based programming. Wildchild which is London-based encourages child-led, outdoor free play. http://childreach.on.ca/wild-child/

Making your own suet for birds this winter!
Photo by Barb D'Arpino
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Making your own suet for birds this winter!

Making your own suet for the birds visiting your backyard during winter is a wonderful way to stay connected to nature while still staying warm! This is a simple way to provide another food source for birds to help them out during the long and cold Canadian winters." Below is a simple recipe for suet that will bring feathered friends to your NatureHood! Note that the temperature needs to be cold enough so that suet does not melt.

Simple Suet Recipe for Wintering Birds

Ingredients

2/3 cup coconut oil 2/3 cup black oil sunflower seeds 3 tbsp peanut butter with no salt added 3 tbsp cornmeal

Oats, corn kernels, peanuts out of the shell, and unsalted almond butter can also be added to the mixture.

1) Melt the coconut oil on a saucepan over low heat. 2) Add peanut butter, stir well until blended 3) Turn off stove, add other ingredients and mix well 4) Pour into a low profile pan 5) Once suet is cooled down, cut into cakes that will fit suet feeder 6) Wrap cakes individually to store in freezer.

Et voila! Enjoy the company of nature from the comfort of your home! To learn more about the birds that stay in our backyards over winter, check out our Winter Birds e-Book today!

Take Me Outside Day
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Take Me Outside Day

Nature Canada is pleased to support Take Me Outside Day, an initiative that encourages educators and schools across Canada to extend its classroom outdoors and provide opportunities for students to explore and learn in an outdoor setting. It is a day to highlight the importance of spending time outside, being physically active and connecting with nature. On October 24th, teachers are encouraged to commit to taking students outside for at least an hour to engage in fun and creative activities. It can be as simple as extending recess, to spending the morning playing games and exploring in the schoolyard. Take Me Outside has developed a list of ideas and activities teachers can do with their students on their website. This initiative is a great way to incorporate nature-based learning into the school day. One idea is to run a NatureBlitz in the schoolyard to engage students in hands-on learning about local biodiversity. Nature Canada has developed a do-it-yourself Toolkit for educators to deliver NatureBlitz events and encourage students to explore nature in their schoolyard. The NatureBlitz Toolkit includes resources and activities grounded in the natural sciences that can be incorporated in a variety of curriculum objectives. Take Me Outside Day aligns perfectly with our NatureHood program, which is all about connecting urban children and youth to nature right where they live – we call this nearby nature.  In your backyard, local park or schoolyard, you can find nature almost anywhere! To learn more about Take Me Outside Day or to sign up, visit their website.

Screen Time Vs Green Time:  New Report Shows Too Much Screen Time Is Hurting Canada’s Kids
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Screen Time Vs Green Time: New Report Shows Too Much Screen Time Is Hurting Canada’s Kids

For Immediate Release - Monday, November 26, 2018

Ottawa – A new report released today exposes the negative health impacts excessive screen time is having on Canadian children. Screen Time vs Green Time: The Health Impacts of Too Much Screen Time by Nature Canada outlines the dramatic shift in the way Canadian kids and teens are spending their time today, with both physical and mental health repercussions. When our parents told us to go play outside, they were actually giving us great health advice,” says Jill Sturdy, NatureHood Program Manager with Nature Canada. “Unfortunately, today excessive screen use is not only robbing our kids of memories playing in the outdoors, it is hurting our kids’ health.

Some key findings of the report include

  • The vast majority of Canadian children are exceeding the recommended screen time guideline;
  • 85% of children aged 5-17 do not meet the guidelines for adequate sleep, physical activity and screen time;
  • Adolescents who spent more time on social media and smartphones were more likely to report mental health issues such as anxiety and depression;
  • Outdoor play in nature is essential for healthy child development.
We are seeing a downward trend in the amount of physical activity children are getting in a day as a result of sedentary behaviour linked to screen time,” states Dr. Mark Tremblay, Director of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the CHEO Research Institute in Ottawa, and professor at the University of Ottawa. The long-term impacts of excessive screen time, prolonged sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity  include increased risk of metabolic and cardiovascular issues, such as type-2 diabetes and heart disease, and time in nature and the outdoors is an easy antidote to these consequences of modern living,” he says. Excessive screen time is also costing our children sleep, which is essential for healthy development. Electronic devices in bedrooms and excessive digital light exposure late at night are linked to short sleep duration, sleep deprivation and sleep disorders among Canadian children. Dr. Michael Cheng, a psychiatrist at CHEO and a professor at the University of Ottawa, says he is concerned with the increased demands for mental health services to help with anxiety and depression, and the link to excessive use of screens. In his own practice, Dr. Cheng prescribes nature to help with the epidemic of anxiety and depression. Families that spend meaningful time together in nature will rediscover the most powerful anti-depressant – getting outside and connecting with each other,” says Cheng. The report shows that being active outdoors in nature helps children manage stress, improve moods and reduce anxiety. Along with positive health outcomes, children who spend time in nature are more likely to develop a lifelong love and appreciation for nature. The good news here is that the solution to too much screen time is right outside our front doors,” said Sturdy. Click HERE to read the REPORT. Click HERE to read the Tip Sheet for parents to reduce screen time and get into nature. -30- For more information, please contact: Haley Ritchie | Communications Specialist, Nature Canada 613-558-0280 (cell) 613 562-3447 ext. 252 hritchie@naturecanada.ca
About Nature Canada: Nature Canada is the country’s oldest conservation charity and has more than 90,000 members and supporters. Since 1939 the organization has worked to protect 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and countless species that depend on this habitat. For more information go to www.naturecanada.ca
 

Squirrel! Can nature reduce the symptoms of ADHD?
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Squirrel! Can nature reduce the symptoms of ADHD?

[caption id="attachment_38322" align="alignleft" width="150"] Sherry Nigro[/caption] This blog post was written by Nature Canada guest blogger Sherry Nigro, and is the second in a series of blogs on the effect of nature on mental health. “Squirrel”. Anyone who has a dog knows that this single word will immediately distract them from whatever they were doing.  In fact, a lot of people find that they too, can be easily distracted, impulsive and inattentive, especially if they are tired or stressed.  The consequences can negatively affect academic and job performance, health and safety as well as relationships with others.  For approximately 5% of children and 4% of adults (conservative measures) these are symptoms of a neurodevelopmental illness called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)[i]. Did you know that time in natural environments can help reduce inattentiveness and improve concentration?

How does it work

Much has been written about the attention restoration affect that time in nature has, since the theory was proposed by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan in the 1980s. It recognizes that periods of extended concentration (such as working on math problems), over stimulation (for example, urban environments) and even under stimulation, are draining and lead to mental fatigue, which in turn can make one easily distracted and unable to focus on the task at hand. In sharp contrast, being in a natural environment requires no intellectual effort, but provides a wrap-around multi-sensory experience.  And most significant, people feel a sense of awe, of being deeply engaged, of being fascinated by the surroundings, that has the most restorative effect.  Who among us has not looked up into a tree canopy with its dancing shades of green, or been mesmerized by water spilling over rocks, or watched a hardworking ant carry a trophy much bigger than itself, and not felt moved? And in turn, refreshed. Subsequent researchers have validated the findings that time in nature can improve attention as noted in a systematic review by Ohly et al, published by the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health[ii]. In addition to short term emotional effects that restore attention and focus, long term exposure to nature can affect brain development in children.  In research published earlier this year, Dadvand et al found that children who lived in urban neighbourhoods with "surrounding greenness" had larger volumes of grey and white matter and also showed better working memory and reduced inattention in cognitive testing[iii].

Reducing the symptoms of ADHD

People with ADHD may show behaviours such as daydreaming, being easily distracted from tasks, talking excessively, interrupting others, being unable to sit still, poor attention to detail and difficulty with multitasking[iv]. The burden is significant at a human and social level with estimates suggesting the cost of ADHD in Canada is 7 billion dollars per year[v]. So not surprisingly, researchers have looked at whether time in nature could improve the symptoms of ADHD. Frances Kuo and Andrea Faber Taylor published strong evidence in the American Journal of Public Health that demonstrated symptoms in children improved, even controlling for residential and individual variables[vi].  Recently, the Lawson Foundation, a philanthropic organization to support the wellbeing of children,  commissioned two systematic literature reviews, one[vii] by the Human Environments Analysis Lab at Western University (lead investigator Dr. Jason Gilliland, child health geographer), and the other by Dr. Robert Gifford, an environmental psychologist, and Dr. Angela Chen at the University of Victoria[viii] which supported the findings that time in nature improved symptoms of ADHD.  (Note that this is complementary to other treatment options such as medication and cognitive therapy).

Applying this to the real world 

It appears that time in nature can be restorative for children and adults, for those with ADHD and those who feel mentally fatigued.  This resonates for me; how many times has a walk in the woods provided clarity of thinking, better focus, and enhanced problem solving?  But a walk, while a great first step is not the only way to add greenness to our lives. This is the fun part.  Let your imagination go wild (many people with ADHD are highly creative, spontaneous, and energetic) as you consider ways to incorporate nature in your day.  Consider active transportation through a park, use natural scenes for wall coverings, take a picnic down to the beach.  Consider the greenness of the neighbourhood when finding a new home.  Schools, universities and workplaces can work to “naturalize” their properties with trees and water.  Green walls (with plants, not paint), and rooftop gardens are also ways to reduce mental fatigue through exposure to nature.  Why not share your ideas? So whether you are trying to make sure your hyperactive 10 year old adjusts to a new school, you are preparing for an exam, or had a heavy few days at work, spend some time to watch the clouds, be amazed by the texture of tree bark, and enjoy the antics of the industrious squirrel in the nearby tree.
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[i] Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada (CADDAC). Understanding ADHD- ADHD Facts- Dispelling the Myths.  Downloaded July 20, 2018 from http://caddac.ca/adhd/understanding-adhd/in-general/facts-stats-myths/ [ii] Heather Ohly, Mathew P. White, Benedict W. Wheeler, Alison Bethel, Obioha C. Ukoumunne, Vasilis Nikolaou & Ruth Garside (2016) Attention Restoration Theory: A systematic review of the attention restoration potential of exposure to natural environments, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, 19:7, 305-343, DOI: 10.1080/10937404.2016.1196155 [iii] Dadvand et al. 2018. The Association between Lifelong Greenspace Exposure and 3-Dimensional Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Barcelona Schoolchildren. Environmental Health Perspectives.  Downloaded from https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wpcontent/uploads/2018/02/EHP1876. [iv] CADDAC. Understanding ADHD>In General> Symptoms. Downloaded July 20, 2018  http://caddac.ca/adhd/understanding-adhd/in-general/symptoms/ [v] CADDAC. Understanding ADHD>In General>Socioeconomic Costs.  Downloaded July 20, 2018 from http://caddac.ca/adhd/understanding-adhd/in-general/socioeconomic-costs/ [vi]  Kuo, Frances E., Faber Taylor, Andrea.  2004.  A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder:  Evidence from a National Study.  American Journal of Public Health.  2004 September: 94(9): 1580-1586.  Downloaded July 10, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448497/ [vii] Human Environments Analysis Laboratory. (nd) Children and Nature:  A systematic review.  Downloaded on July 10, 2018 from https://lawson.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Children-Nature-A-Systematic-Review.pdf [viii] Gifford, R., Chen, A.  2016.  Children and Nature:  What We Know and What We Do Not.  Downloaded on July 10, 2018 from  https://lawson.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Children-and-Nature-What-We-Know-and-What-We-Do-Not.pdf

Rediscovering Nature in Your ‘Hood
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Rediscovering Nature in Your ‘Hood

[caption id="attachment_38005" align="alignleft" width="150"] Bob Peart, Chair of Nature Canada.[/caption] This blog was written by Bob Peart, who is the Chair of Nature Canada and the founding Chair of the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada. Bob is a committed advocate for protecting nature and has a life-long passion for sharing his love for nature and getting children and their families reconnected to the outdoors. This post was originally shared on the Children & Nature Network. Children and Nature Network is a global movement to increase access to nature so that children – and natural places – can thrive. The organization was founded by author Richard Louv, who coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” in his bestselling book, Last Child in the Wood, and is a tireless advocate of getting kids outdoors.


As you head out the door today to go to work, run errands or hike with friends, stop for a moment to think about your neighborhood. What does your neighborhood represent?  How important is it to you?

Now consider how your neighborhood and your concept of neighborhood has changed over the years.

I was raised in the 50’s and 60’s. My neighborhood was a street of 20-30 houses, a range of farmers’ fields, a nearby gravel-pit and a good-sized creek. Across the railway tracks was a large city park with baseball fields, picnic tables and a forest with trails. I’d leave the house and be gone for the day roaming around that neighborhood— running through the corn fields, building rafts and hunting for squirrels— and would often end up a couple of miles from my house. My mum and dad weren’t that concerned because I was a pretty good kid. I understood safety (even though I took risks). And if I was going to be late, I could just stop at a nearby house to call home.

[caption id="attachment_38006" align="alignright" width="300"] A female Cardinal, capture by Sandy Thompson.[/caption]

Of course, childhood looks a lot different now. Children today spend 90% of their time indoors. While I could identify most local plants and animals as a child, today most children can’t name the five most common birds. I rarely watched television; children today spend up to seven hours a day in front of a screen. As childhood has migrated indoors, our sense of neighborhood has changed drastically. Today, children often don’t know their neighbors. And they seldom even leave the safety of their backyard, never mind roam the neighborhood.

These trends continue despite increasing literature and knowledge about the negative effects of a lack of outdoor time on an individual’s mental, physical and spiritual health.

To counter this trend, Nature Canada has developed a program called NatureHood— or nature in your ‘hood. The goal of NatureHood is to connect urban children and families with nearby nature in their neighborhoods, right where they live. Working closely with local organizations across the country, Nature Canada’s NatureHood program provides children and families opportunities to explore, play and develop a long-lasting relationship with nature in their communities through a variety of nature-based activities and events. NatureHood aims to inspire children with a sense of wonder and appreciation for nature, and ultimately help to foster the next generation of nature lovers and future leaders to protect natural places.

Programs like NatureHood are increasingly important as people increasingly move into cities, where nearby nature is hard to find.

Imagine that, in thirty years, 80% of us will be living in urban landscapes, with most of us in mega-cities of 20 million or more. What will our connection with nature and our neighborhood be like then? Without a conscious effort, the connection to nature could be lost.

Nature conservation begins when we are young, in association with the neighborhoods where we grow up. We need to increasingly introduce urban children and families to nature-based activities close to home: in their ‘hood! It is essential that we promote urban parks and treed streetscapes. These outdoor activities will lead to a sense of belonging, perhaps a sense of neighborhood. The connection to nature brings a value set that respects the environment and the need to protect it, which brings with it the health-related benefits we all need, plus hope for the future.

It seems pretty clear that being outside in nature must once again become an essential part of our family dynamic and cultural identity.  There is perhaps no better place for that than in our local nature ‘hoods.


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Celebrate Canada’s Parks Day!
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Celebrate Canada’s Parks Day!

[caption id="attachment_37287" align="alignleft" width="150"] Jill Sturdy, NatureHood Program Manager.[/caption] There are so many reasons to spend time outdoors and explore in nature. It’s a great way to connect with nature and learn about local biodiversity. There is more and more research exposing the physical and mental health benefits of spending time in nature. Simply put, exploring nature is good for you and good for your soul. What’s more is you don’t need to go far to get into nature. In fact, our NatureHood program is all about that: exploring nature right where you live. Watch and listen to the birds in your neighbourhood. How many species can you identify? Early morning is the best time, as that’s when birds are most active. Find out how you can attract birds and other wildlife to your yard – it can be as simple as planting native flowers to attract butterflies. Learn more about ways you can be a good neighbor to wildlife here. Another way to get out into nature is to go for a hike at your local nature trails. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the plants you shouldn’t touch! Hint: poison ivy thrives along trail edges – another good reason to stick to the trails! Summer is also a great time to venture out a little farther and explore our beautiful parks! Saturday, July 21 is Canada’s Parks Day – a day to celebrate our parks and all that they have to offer. Depending where you live in the country, you won’t have to go far to get to a park.

Summer is short so get out and explore! What’s your favourite nature-based activity?


Here are just a couple of examples of park initiatives happening next weekend: Healthy by Nature is an initiative developed by the BC Parks Foundation. They are promoting Parks Day by encouraging people to join a family-friendly walk in one of BC’s provincial parks on July 21st. Healthy Parks Healthy People is an initiative developed by Ontario Parks to promote the link between a healthy environment and healthy society. On Friday, July 20, ALL of Ontario provincial parks will offer FREE day-use to encourage Ontarians to explore a provincial park near them.
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Camp Smitty: Providing a quintessential Canadian experience
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Camp Smitty: Providing a quintessential Canadian experience

This blog was written by Halima Sadia, a public relations student from Algonquin College and intern at Nature Canada. On June 26th, 2018, I accompanied Jill Sturdy, our Naturehood program Manager on a visit to Camp Smitty located in Eganville, Ontario. My name is Halima Sadia and I am a public relations intern at Nature Canada and I have never been to a summer camp. Although Canada is blessed with an abundance of natural wonders, many Canadians do not have the luxury of enjoying it. This is especially true for new Canadian families. Since 1923, the Boys and Girls Club has provided a safe and supportive place where children and youth can experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships and develop confidence and skills for life. Every summer, Camp Smitty hosts four 10-day camps, where children and youth discover their dreams and grow up to be healthy, successful and active participants of society. Camp Smitty is a free summer camp offered to children who wouldn't otherwise have the means to attend. Many of these families are new residents to Canada and in some cases, refugees.  During our visit, the Camp Manager, Rosie Warden, gathered all the senior staff and counselors for Jill's presentation. The  objective was to train the camp counselors on our NatureHood DIY NatureBlitz toolkit. The Toolkit is straightforward and can be helpful for every age group. The Nature Blitz is a fun educational experience that puts you in control of observing nature in a given area. The objective is to help the campers learn more about the natural world and learn to identify common birds and plants found at camp, which they can take home and expand their knowledge about local biodiversity and share with their friends and family. Materials required; checklist, pencil and of course, nature.  The purpose of our NatureHood program is to connect urban Canadians to nearby nature, and get people — especially children — outside and active right where they live. We are hoping that by exploring the nature around us, we can shape the minds of the next generation to respect and care for it. Nature Canada has provided Camp Smitty with all the tools required to make a it a summer of nature exploration. We even provided materials in Arabic, so campers can share it with their families when they get home.  Thanks to a grant provided by the Ottawa Community Foundation, the goal of this project is to incorporate NatureHood activities at Camp Smitty, and provide nature-based learning opportunities to help kids at camp foster a relationship with nature. For many kids this will be an introduction to nature-based exploratory learning. There are many benefits to spending time in nature including promoting mental and physical health and overall well-being. While participants will be immersed in nature during their time at camp, there is currently no nature-based programming. The NatureHood camp program will help fill this gap, and fit well with the Boys and Girls Club “Outdoor Enthusiasts” theme, one of multiple themes the camp kids choose. After the presentation, the Senior staff (many of whom work at the BGCO Clubhouses) were also excited to explore ways they can incorporate NatureHood programming during the school-year. We hope that his project serves as a template for other Boys and Girls Clubs across Canada to adopt. Growing up in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, I had never been to summer camp, and had no clue what I was getting into when we first arrived at the camp. It was lunchtime so we headed to the dining room where we were greeted by the Camp's Assistant Manager, Matt Singer. That’s when I heard the loud chanting so I peeped into the hall to see tables filled with camp counselors, singing their lunch call as they formed a line into the kitchen. I made my way to the back of the line, about to experience my first camp meal. What I was picking up was a sense of unity and fun and I wanted in. I sat down with the Senior staff and they explained how the camp works, common rules to follow and all the fun activities they had planned out for the campers. After lunch I was lucky enough to get a private tour of the camp and learned about all the activities that take place. At one point I looked at Jill and said,  

“Thank you for bringing me along on this trip because even though my time to be a camper has passed, I can appreciate how much summer camp can help you grow. I am grateful to be out in nature in a safe place surrounded by people who are determined to make this a memorable experience.“
  So today I am going to leave you with a couple things I learned about Camp Smitty and hopefully this serves as a summer camp guide to you.
    1. Beat the heat. Hydrate yourself, challenge yourself to drink 3L of water every day. Remember that animals feel the heat as well, so be mindful of bees, birds and other animals you might encounter at camp. Notify your counselors right away so they can take the necessary steps.
    2. Meet your new role models. Be ready to meet campers, counselors and staff from different walks of life. Being a camp counselor is no easy job but over the next couple weeks, they will become your friend, mentor and most importantly role model.
    3. Time flies. You would think that two weeks is a long time but when you are having fun, time moves quickly. It’s important to be present and live in the moment. It’s the best way to make the most out of your experience over the summer! Get excited before every activity (even laundry!)
    4. Nurture Nature. Be kind to the nature around you and don’t litter. You don’t have to stop learning just because it’s summer. Use this as an opportunity to learn something new about nature and the animals around you every day. Use Nature Canada’s NatureBlitz for some outdoor activities.
    5. Expect to leave the camp as a completely different person. By the time you get on the bus and head back home, reflect on everything you have learned, all the new experiences and memories and the amazing people. The things you learned over the summer will have a profound impact on you; the way you live your life, what you care about, and the way you see others. You may not even realize it, but a summer at camp will change you for the better!

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