This post has been contributed by Kathleen Stormont, Fundraising & Communications Specialist with the Stanley Park Ecology Society (“SPES”). I have been following SPES since I moved into the West End almost a decade ago and I have been a member for two years. I wanted to offer the team an opportunity to share their news, events, and work so I have created “SPES Saturday” where they contribute and share stories with my audience once a month.
Nature Ninjas Urban Camping
When we think of people camping in Stanley Park, school children in tents do not spring to mind. But Stanley Park Ecology Society (“SPES”) hopes that local school teachers are picturing just that. Since 1992 over 5000 kids have had the unique opportunity to explore the wilds of Stanley Park by day AND night through SPES’ Nature Ninjas Urban Camping school program.
“We all know, intuitively and academically, that time in nature is good for kids. We are so proud here at SPES to be able to facilitate deep nature connection experiences, and to see the difference it makes for kids,” says Anita Georgy, SPES School Programs Manager. And what could be more fun than imagining yourself as a ninja creeping through the woods – attired with your own ninja headband? In this unique program, kids in Grades 4 to 7 approach the forest in a way they likely never have before.
With heightened senses they learn to read ‘the book of nature’ through animal tracks and signs, listen to the language of birds, and recognize how they fit into the web of life. With their new-found ninja skills, an evening hike to Beaver Lake is a program highlight where kids often encounter beavers, bats and owls.
Anita’s Nature Ninjas approach has proven to be a fun educational way of tuning kids into forest, wetland and intertidal ecosystems while building those deeper connections with nature. But for many of the kids – especially inner city students – this is also their first camping experience. Participants set up their tents supplied by SPES, sleep under the stars and cook their meals on camp stoves all just steps from Canada’s third largest city. With a wilderness like Stanley Park so close by, connecting with nature and learning how to survive in it is as easy as hopping on the Number 19 bus, or, as one class did, walking over from the North Shore!
But is it safe? The bears, wolves and cougars that once prowled Stanley Park’s forest are long gone, replaced today by a handful of unsanctioned campers who call the Park home. Although the program’s campsite in Mystery Meadow may feel secluded – surrounded by tall cedars and salmonberries, with a babbling creek running nearby – the site is within a large fenced enclosure (invisible from the road for a real nature feel), and is monitored by a professional security guard at night. To date, campers haven’t had any unwanted encounters with Park ‘wildlife’.
Going to camp is often one of the highlights of the year for elementary school students. Nature Ninjas Urban Camping sends its campers home with powerful memories, knowledge, skills and a new relationship to nature that will carry forward into their daily lives. “Where else do you get to see your students hug trees, search for forest critters, quietly sneak up on beavers, overcome fears of the outdoors and have so much fun?” grins Anita.
For grades 4-7, Nature Ninjas starts on Tuesdays and Thursdays in April, May and June 2015. Call SPES at 604-257-6907 to book your class’ most memorable experience of the year! Only 16 sessions available.