MEET CHRISTINA CHOWANIEC FROM NATUREKIDS BC
I’m the Program Coordinator at NatureKids BC. My role is to support our volunteer leaders who are the backbone of NatureKids. I have a biology degree, and most recently come from the tourism industry where I ran my own adventure travel business. I am passionate about getting people outside to explore and learn and I love having the opportunity to work with families, to give them the knowledge, confidence and tools to get outside.
My time outdoors ranges from expedition style trips to daily visits to my local neighbourhood parks. Paddling, hiking and skiing are my favourite pursuits, but just walking out into our urban nature or doing a workout in a local park is great too. Nature for me is a place to disconnect from our wired world and to gain perspective on what is important.
BC is an incredible playground. We are so privileged to live here and have access to such incredible landscapes. I am definitely drawn to beaches – here in the city or along our coast. It goes hand in hand with my love of paddling.
Broughton Archipelago or Hakai area up north are highlights, but it is all great. Deep Cove on the North Shore is spectacular and is basically in the city. I like backcountry skiing and hiking our local mountains. Carmanah Walbran Park on Vancouver Island is the most magical place I have ever been. You can spend time with 800-year-old trees.
NATUREKIDS BC AND THE INSPIRATION BEHIND IT
It started 20 years ago when some insightful members of Nature Vancouver realized that kids were becoming increasingly disconnected from nature. They started one club here in Vancouver and we have since grown to more than 20 all over BC.
Our community is families with kids aged 5-12. We have a number programming elements, including our quarterly full colour NatureWILD magazine, but our bread and butter are Explorer Days, outdoor field trips designed by our volunteer leaders and delivered at the club level.
Experts, we call them Nature Mentors, are often invited to Explorer Days to share their knowledge on a specific topic. We also do annual citizen science projects and monthly stewardship days – so there is always an element of giving back while learning and playing. Since Covid-19 we have also added virtual Explorer Days where our community can access great nature content from home.
Our clubs (20+ all across BC) have monthly Explorer Days where families get out together to explore, play, learn and take action for nature. Topics range from month to month, but past events have included things like pollinators, pond dipping, snowshoeing, planting native plants/trees, park or stream clean-ups, bear safety, bird watching, tidal walks, forest ecology and so much more.
We have a quarterly full colour magazine called NatureWILD full of articles by BC naturalists about BC nature; we have rewards programs such as our Passport to Nature where kids can earn prizes simply by spending time outside.
We have a monthly schedule of virtual Explorer Days on a wide variety of topics. We often have photo or drawing contests and much more.
FAVOURITE MOMENTS WITH NATUREKIDS BC
Really anytime I can get out to a club event or connect with our community is a highlight – seeing the incredible creativity and commitment of our volunteers in action or how engaged and knowledgeable the kids are at events is always inspiring.
I have become a bird nerd and our annual Christmas Bird Count for Kids is so fun. Going out with expert birders and seeing how good the kids are at spotting and identifying birds is amazing.
We are celebrating 20 years this year, and we had celebratory planting event in Sept where our 90-year-old founder was planting trees side by side with 6 year olds and we had alumni coming back who are now grown up with families of their own and you begin to see the legacy and impact of what 20 years can do.
ADVICE IF YOU WANT TO GET OUTSIDE AND UNPLUGGED, TOO
Find ways to build nature into your routine – so it becomes part of everyday. The more you do it, the more you enjoy it and then you build a connection to it that you can’t live without. Can you do that thing you are going to do anyway doing outside? (i.e. the workout, the activity, a meal).
Going to the same place/park a couple of times a week is such a great way to build a relationship to it – you begin to notice things you didn’t notice before. And you find your senses becoming more attune to observing the world around you.