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Ottawa Students get up close with birds of prey

Ottawa Students get up close with birds of prey

On February 25, over 1,000 Ottawa–area elementary school kids had the unique opportunity of meeting a live raptor at their school. They learned about three traits all birds of prey (or raptors) have in common (incredible vision, sharp talons and curved beaks), and the important role they play as a top predator in their ecosystems by helping maintain balance in the food chain. The students’ favourite part was meeting two birds of prey: Olaf, an American Kestrel and his friend Darwin, a Great-horned Owl. The animator and handler of the birds was from Falcon-ed, a company that specializes in falconry, training birds of prey, ecological control and educational presentations. The birds of prey are born in captivity and have been specially trained for presentations. They are well taken care of! [caption id="attachment_48784" align="aligncenter" width="665"] Darwin, the Great-horned Owl[/caption] Both American kestrels and Great-horned owls can be found in and around the Ottawa area, so having Olaf and Darwin as ambassadors help educated and raise awareness of wildlife that can be found in forests where we live. School presentations are one example of ways we engage kids with nature through our NatureHood program, which is about connecting urban Canadians, particularly children, to nearby nature. Thank you to Kemptville and Lakeview Public schools and St. Anne Catholic school for inviting Nature Canada and Falcon-ed to talk about birds of prey and nearby nature. This is the time of year when Great-horned owls start looking for a nest, so be sure to get out and explore your NatureHood, and you might be lucky and find an owl! [caption id="attachment_48789" align="aligncenter" width="660"] Falcon-ed with Olaf, an American Kestrel[/caption]

Get Outside for Family Day

Get Outside for Family Day

February may be the shortest month of the year and at times can feel like the longest when winter hits hard. This year most of Canada has felt the effects of the Polar Vortex with cold weather and lots of snow. But the cold weather doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors, and Family Day is a great way to break out of hibernation and embrace nature in winter. With kids spending more time on screens, making time for nature is more important than ever. Time spent in nature and being active outdoors is beneficial to children’s health and overall well-being. Spending time in nature is a great way to connect with family and friends, get moving and reap the health benefits. Here are a few ideas to get you out exploring nature on Family Day:

Explore nearby nature

You don’t need to go far to explore nature. It can be as simple as going for a walk in your neighbourhood and observing how many birds you can see and hear. Bundle up and visit a local nature trail and look for signs of wildlife – watch for tracks in the snow and listen for woodpeckers knocking on trees.

Visit a provincial park

For those who want to venture out farther, many provincial parks have outdoor activities planned and equipment like snowshoes and cross-country skis available for rent. A number of provincial parks have Family Day nature events planned all weekend long.

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count (Feb 15-18, 2019)

Become a citizen scientist for a day and for at least 15 minutes tally the total number and different species of birds you see. You can count from anywhere for as long as you wish. Submit your findings using the easy-to-use app ebird and contribute to bird conservation. No matter what you decide, taking time to get into nature year-round is a great way to unplug and connect with friends and family. For more tips on how to get into nature, download our TIP SHEET!

5 Tips to Raise a Nature Lover

5 Tips to Raise a Nature Lover

Any parent knows that taking your kids in nature is extremely beneficial for physical . However, in a world dominated by technology and screens, it becomes very complicated to make your kids go out and enjoy a day in nature. Even though the outside world is fascinating, it is tough to take kids away from all the electronic games they can play indoors. So, what can be done? The best solution is to start from an early age and raise your kid with a love for nature. Here are five tips to raising a nature lover.

1. Take activities outside

Not every parent has the necessary time to go hiking in a park, or easy access to walking trails. Fortunately, there are several indoor activities that can be relocated to the outdoors. For example, you can read your kid’s favorite stories on the porch of your house or in the backyard. If you do not have access to a backyard, you can also have playdates at the park, or even have an outdoor picnic with family! Do not worry if it is cold outside – there are also plenty of mom-approved winter activities to get kids into nature!

2. Cultivate a curiosity for nature

Kids are curious by nature. The outdoors offer endless opportunities for exploring, and discovery. This is why it is crucial to expose children to nature and cultivate their sense of wonder at an early age. Once they’re outside, challenge them to use all their senses! What animal sounds can they detect in the forest? How many colours do they see in one natural space? Can they see any animal marknigs on the ground, or feel the direction in which the wind is blowing?

3. Include nature in your family traditions

Good habits should always come from the family. Thus, if you want your kid to love nature, then you should do it as a family tradition. For instance, you can have a regular family tradition to spend time outdoors on several occasions. You can go each month for a picnic or have dinner under the full moon. Don’t be afraid by stormy nights. If you have any fear related to nature, then it will be transmitted to your kid as well. So, even if it’s “pouring cats and dogs,” take your kid’s hand and go out for a full moon walk, showing him how nature changes its face under heavy rains. Furthermore, you can create other family traditions like collecting snails after rain or stones shaped in weird forms. Start with something that’s easy and fun to accomplish together.

4. Build memories

One great activity is building specific memories that will encourage your kids to identify with nature. While it is great to discover new places, there is value to creating a routine by taking your kid back every year to a natural spot they enjoyed in the past. Point out how the place changed each year and make them curious and excited to come back the next year!

5. Allow your kid to spend time alone in nature

Even though you are nearby, you should let children have their moments of solitude in nature. Give them enough time and space to explore and analyze the natural world. This will encourage them to observe and appreciate nature on their own from a young age.
“There are many natural spaces which are worth visiting with your child. If you take the natural areas, protected by law, you will discover breathtaking sceneries which will make them curious to explore their surroundings. Thinking of the protected areas from Canada, there are so many things your kid can learn from wildlife and nature”, says Camelia Williams, CEO of a company dedicated to reviews for essay writing services.
Daniela McVicker is a freelance writer, psychologist and a family counsellor. Her passion is writing about leading a healthy family life and helping people enjoy their lives to the fullest.

Getting out into nature is for the birds

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!


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.


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

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!

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.

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

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


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

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

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
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

Squirrel! Can nature reduce the symptoms of ADHD?

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 [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 [iv] CADDAC. Understanding ADHD>In General> Symptoms. Downloaded July 20, 2018 [v] CADDAC. Understanding ADHD>In General>Socioeconomic Costs.  Downloaded July 20, 2018 from [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 [vii] Human Environments Analysis Laboratory. (nd) Children and Nature:  A systematic review.  Downloaded on July 10, 2018 from [viii] Gifford, R., Chen, A.  2016.  Children and Nature:  What We Know and What We Do Not.  Downloaded on July 10, 2018 from

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