by Laurie de Jong, Club Leader, Eastern Fraser Valley
Stewardship Explorer Days are the meaningful offshoots of club members having had fun exploring and learning about nature. They are the events that allow children and families to experience the good feeling of giving back, and that empowerment just may lead to a life rooted in conservation.
We have found the following tips to be winners in making stewardship Explorer Days successful:
1) Build Partnerships with Nature Mentors
Seeking a partnership with a Nature Mentor who has a passion for conservation is one of the most important relationships you will build. They know where stewardship is needed and can answer questions that make your project relevant. What nest boxes are in short supply, which are proven bird box designs for our climate, is there an upcoming habitat restoration project that your group can be part of, and even help with fundraising efforts through their connection to conservation grants.
Kids and nature are one of the most inspirational and heart-warming combinations, so you might be surprised to learn that you are readily matched with a grant to take your project to the next level. Also, Nature Mentor’s are touched to learn that your group appreciates their efforts enough to ask in what way you could support their project.
These wonderful people can be found at nature centres and parks. South Coast Conservation for example is a fantastic resource with the added bonus of Nature Mentor’s that have been trained to work with children, and an educational program developed around their research. This organization can also direct you to regional specific specialists and the projects that are right in your neighbourhood.
2) Plan Stewardship Days Into Your Annual Schedule
Determine to have at least one stewardship Explorer Day per year. You might choose a mini-theme to build a connection and understanding to the act of conservation. Visiting a conservationist and seeing endangered Western Painted turtles adds meaning to a follow-up stewardship act of clearing turtle nest sites of blackberries and grass – and it is clearly more fun to clear blackberries if baby turtles are involved.
3) Make It Fun
The goal is for members to have fun, so plan your activity thoughtfully. Before a planting project, check the ground – does the spade go in easily, or is it hard and rocky? If you have you been lucky enough to find a retired carpenter to make bird boxes, consider a simple Ikea style construction sheet to make sure things flow smoothly and builders aren’t frustrated. Bring a few tiny spades along with shovels means little hands can dig holes, too. A little effort on your part will go a long way in making the project a positive experience for all.
4) Document Event
Finally, it is important for NatureKids as an organization to have access to images of NatureKids having fun being nature stewards. Close-up photos where the child is looking in the camera, having fun, and engaged in the project are important for securing our own grants. Quotes from children make a photo that much more meaningful.
Have fun building memories and conservationists!