Environmental Awareness and Sustainability

For decades Education Centres in Ontario have facilitated environmental awareness and sustainability education through experiential activities.  The increased social awareness of these values is exciting and has resulted in an increase in the resources and programs available to schools in support of energy conservation, waste minimalization and sustainable living. Leading the way in Ontario is the initiative originally developed for the Toronto School Board and now being adopted provincially called EcoSchools.

The Kinark Outdoor Centre is excited to be able to facilitate a range of Ontario Curriculum linked EcoSchool programs and to support the work of schools and school boards as they work to become Eco-Schools. We partner regularly with the biologists and educators at Out to Learn to deliver these programs to the highest standard.

Program and Activities

Programs Available Year Round

Sustainable Consumption Waste Away (half-day, junior to advanced)
‘It is easy to be green’ This program introduces the concept of sustainability, explores the process and materials that go into the things we use everyday and utilizes decision making templates that are experienced through group initiative tasks. The program draws heavily on the Sustainable Living Centre for examples and provides students with action plans to take home and back to school.

Who Turned Out the Lights? (half-day, junior to advanced)
The program starts with a demonstration of where electricity in Ontario comes from and the costs/environmental impact of the different sources. Students are then introduced to photovoltaics – solar electricity through a guided tour of the Sustainable Living Centre. They will also discover how to conserve energy through the use of energy efficient appliances and designs. Students then participate in a series of group discovery stations where they construct solar powered tools and toys.

Solar Heating (half-day, junior to advanced)
This program explores the concepts of passive and active solar heat collection. Students are exposed to design and devices of the Sustainable Learning Centre. They then design and construct group solar heaters using natural materials from the site.

Climate Change What Can YOU do? (half-day, junior to intermediate)
The good news is that we can stop climate change. Many of the solutions involve things that each one of us can do everyday. Using a station rotation structure, students engage in a series of group tasks that provide insight into lifestyle habits and practices including the food we eat, the way we travel, the things we buy and the ways we work with others. At the end of the rotation students will have a plan for the future. The concluding activity is the sustainability game.

Imagining a Better Future (half-day, junior to intermediate)
Following a facilitated ecology hike through a wetland, students are given a tour of the Sustainable Living Centre, its features and learning stations. Through a group envisioning exercise students are then facilitated to a ‘Future Tree’ using the principles of Sustainability. The large group finishes with the ‘Sustainability Challenge’ an active game involving role playing where degree of success is dependant on the involvement of all the participants.

Forest Management (half-day, junior to advanced)
This program explores the principles and techniques of forest management. A one-hour classroom introduction focuses on a variety of objectives ranging from the production of veneer and sawlogs to wildlife habitat and recreation. This is followed by a one and a half hour outdoor component that involves tree identification and grading and defining critical wildlife habitat. The in-class summary allows participants to develop and present a forest management plan based on their given objectives.

Natural Resource Mapping (half-day, junior to advanced)
Natural Resource Mapping introduces the basic principles of mapping and how maps are used in resource management. The critical components and the resulting value of a map are explored. Outside, participants will mark out transects in a variety of habitats and collect necessary data to create their own map. The session concludes with the students using their maps to develop a wildlife management plan.

Furbearers: Ecology and Management (half-day, junior to advanced)
This program takes a closer look at some of the small and medium sized mammals of Ontario. Participants will learn different characteristics of each mammal by examining their pelts. The historical importance and current human use and management of these mammals will also be discussed. A one hour outdoor component allows the participants to link habitat characteristics to use and introduces them to mammal tracks.

Wildlife Habitats (half-day, junior to advanced)
Participants are introduced to some of the common habitats found in Ontario and will discover the different habitat features utilized by wildlife that make these habitats essential to their survival. With an understanding of the limiting factors relative to wildlife populations, participants will map out various habitats and make management decisions based on their results.

When it Rains, it Pours (half-day, junior to advanced)
This program offers an introduction to watersheds and water management. The demands on our water are introduced and management strategies are examined. Working with water and models, the participants will understand the need for dams and the important role natural wetlands play in flood control. A visit to a local dam provides the students with a hands-on understanding of how dams work and how the local needs are balanced with the needs of wildlife and the rest of the human population in the watershed. Bus required.

Interpreting the Earth (half-day, junior to advanced)
A thorough introduction to the world of geology and geological mapping. This program includes a one hour discussion on the earth’s formation, geological systems and the value of correct identification of rocks followed by a one hour geological mapping exercise. Participants map an idealized geological terrain, interpret the geology from the results and deduce the geological history. There is a one hour road cut tour to interpret geological events in the field. Bus required.

Going On A Bear Hunt! Interpreting the Earth (two hours, junior to intermediate)
A thorough introduction to the world of geology and geological mapping. This program includes a one hour discussion on the earth’s formation, geological systems and the value of correct identification of rocks followed by a one hour geological mapping exercise. Participants map an idealized geological terrain, interpret the geology from the results and deduce the geological history. There is a one hour road cut tour to interpret geological events in the field. Bus required.

Participants will be introduced to bear biology and ecology through a virtual hike. While singing, clues to the presence and activity of bears are viewed through a slide show and demonstrated with various hands on props such as skulls, pelts, casts, etc. This fun, interactive program familiarizes participants with the bear and raises interest and respect for this majestic creature of Ontario’s forests. Other interactive activities can be incorporated into this program but additional time will be required.

The Bear Essentials (two hours, advanced)
Participants will be introduced to bear biology and ecology through a virtual hike, hands-on skull investigations and discussion. The aim of this program is to familiarize participants with Black Bears, their needs and behaviours and to further discuss bear/human interactions and measures to avoid conflict while sharing their habitat. Where possible, an optional walk into black bear habitat will acquaint participants with this animal’s forest home. An extra hour is required for this portion of the program.

Making Sense of the Night (two hours, junior to intermediate)
Why are we afraid of the dark? This is discussed as well as some of the effects artificial lighting and light pollution has. Participants will experience the night from the perspective of nocturnal animals through sensory exploratory activities. The aim of this program is to become more familiar and appreciative of the dark and dispel some of the fears regarding the night.

Programs Available May 1 to Nov. 1

Wetland Ecology (half-day, junior to advanced)
Participants will gain an understanding of wetland ecology through plant identification, pH testing and analysis of peat core samples. The values of wetlands will be explored and the different types of wetlands introduced. The students will visit a swamp, fen and marsh and compare the different features. This program involves a one hour introduction followed by two hours on a wetland.

Species at Risk (half-day, junior to advanced)
An introduction and appreciation of the terms and issues surrounding species at risk is provided through this program. Participants will learn the categories of risk species. The Eastern Hognose Snake, Peregrine Falcon and Polar Bear are some of the species examined to explore the various factors causing endangerment. A hands-on outdoor habitat evaluation will emphasize the importance of habitat to species and illustrate how habitat loss is a contributing factor to species decline.

Programs Available Jan. 1 to March 30

Deer Ecology - (half-day, junior to advanced)
Bones, skulls and antlers allow participants in this program to investigate deer ecology and adaptation. An introduction into deer management will be presented followed by an outdoor hike to a local deer wintering area. The importance of thermal cover, browse and the impacts of severe winters will be discussed.