by Lucy Hughes *
Not surprisingly, this summer’s outdoor excursions were slightly hampered by the incredible drenching of rain that permeated much of July. This wet did not, however, dampen the spirits of New Minas Recreation, who spent the first week with us. Though the group was large and a test of our planning, we were pleasantly surprised to find a core of interested children, many who were delighted with the amount of snails and slugs hanging onto plants.
We took this group as well as Hantsport Recreation, Kentville Recreation, Apple Tree Landing Daycare, and New Minas Children’s Centre to four different locations over the course of a week during July and August.
The first site for exploration was Blomidon Provincial Park, where children screeched about outdoor bathrooms, jauntily ran circles around us, commented on the amount of vegetation, and accompanied us on a steep walk down Jodrey Trail. Here, bright orange and yellow hawkweed was exclaimed over, Balsam Fir trees were prodded for sap, the interesting fusion of two ash trees via a thick branch was noticed and subsequently pondered over, thick moss was brushed, hemlock needles were trodden upon, and the meadow below was swept with butterfly nets, whereupon a plethora of plant hoppers leapt into the faces of the children, and a few brightly green unidentified oblong beetles were carried to the picnic area for further scrutiny.
Most of the children were favourably impressed by the incredible view from the top of the trail and were interested to find themselves at the bottom and look up to where they had previously been. There was only one episode of fog that blotted out the entire landscape during the second week of August, but it had cleared by the time lunch was consumed and everyone was getting muddy on the beach. Children delighted in crab remnants, slippery seaweed, and the brook that runs over a shelf of rock into the sea.
We spent day two at Blue Beach, where it was often a race against the tides. Chris Mansky, the owner of a very-well-stocked museum at Blue Beach, gave the kids an informative history of the area, what was going on there 300 mfflion years ago and what fossil evidence could be found. Children were very keen to find as many fossils as possible, an ambition that often surpassed their expectations (something that often proved a great difficulty in the end, as the weight of the fossils they wished to keep often outweighed themselves). I don’t believe than any child who participated on the beach went home empty-handed, and interest in form, shape, and identification was high. Worm tubes, wave ripples, and raindrops were among the most commonly found, along with some tree bark and fish scales.
The third location was Smileys Provincial Park, tucked away in the middle of the Rawdon Hills. Many, including myse~,hadn’t known of its existence. This verdant place was alive with birds, insects, and fluttering trees, though the main attraction was the river that bisects the lower portion of the park. On a river walk, the children entered at the bridge and finished at a pool some 30 splashing minutes later.
The edges of the brook were peppered with water striders and damselflies, their shockingly blue bodies and black wings bold against grass stems and leaves. We had the good fortune of finding a massive fishing spider on one excursion. The water dwindled during the month of August when the hot and sunny weather finally made an appearance, and the trip was much easier and very refreshing to everyone. The water was shallow enough for even the smallest children to navigate on their own, which was excellent. Much skipping of stones and water fights went on at the end pool before the kids trooped back to the changing areas and then the bus. Often, we visited the massive lightning-struck pine tree with its porcupine inhabitants, a fascinating sight that prompted the immediate searching for quills.
We spent Thursdays at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens. The groups were often split in half for this location, as the environmental educators at the centre offered a tour. Half would learn about the various landscapes and species grown in the gardens, while Kevin and I took the remaining children into the woods along the Woodland Trails. We trekked up to the Norway Spruce forest, where we engaged them with nature-themed games and activities that included animal recognition, listening, and observation. We meandered further along the trail in a large loop, stopping to do activities along the way, and ending up back in the gardens for lunch, after which the groups swapped places.
Visiting these four places exposed the children to a variety of landscapes and ecosystems and different species, and engaged their senses. I very much enjoyed being outside each day with them, enticing them as best I could by spelling off intriguing information and getting them to observe. By and large, the groups were organized and pleasant to work with, and John, the Perry Rand bus driver, was patient and wonderful with everyone.
It was a great learning experience for the two of us, one that I would definitely repeat again. It is my hope that these children came away with a slightly wider view of the world, have gained new interests, and hold their surroundings in higher appreciation. I would like to thank the Blomidon Naturalists Society for supporting this endeavour it is, in my opinion, an important thing for everyone.
* NOTE: Lucy Hughes and Kevin Forney ran the Young Naturalist Program during the summer of 2009.
Lucy has had an avid interest in and love of the natural world from a young age. Born in New Brunswick, she was raised in a family for whom the outdoors and nature were an important part of life. She spent a fascinating year in Australia observing the diversity of life there, and she earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Acadia in 2007.
Kevin is from Port Williams. He has a great interest in working with children. While studying education at Memorial University and recreation at Acadia, Kevin has spent many summers as a counselor at community summer camps, where he learned to work hard with the children but have fun in the process.
Currently, Lucy is working toward a digital mapping diploma at the Centre of Geographic Sciences in Lawrencetown. Kevin is back at Acadia studying recreation management. We wish them great success in all their endeavours.
Thank You for Your Financial Support
As you can see from Lucy Hughes’s report, the Blomidon Naturalists had another very successful summer, sharing an exciting outdoor learning experience with children, in cooperation with several local community groups. This would not be possible without the generous financial contributions of a number of supporters. Kings County Council contributed $4,750, with special thanks to councilors Chris Parker and Janet Newton. TD Friends of the Environment donated $3,500 for the third year in a row. The Canada Summer Jobs Program helped with employment to the sum of $3,552. A special friend of the Blomidon Naturalists Society donated $3,000, and all the members contributed through assistance from the Society itself with an additional $2,000.
About 150 children and 27 coundiors participated in the program. We all benefit from a program like this, which brings young people into direct contact with the natural world and expands their personal growth through imagination, creativity, and self-confidence. These factors, in turn, lead to the support for nature and the environment that forms a critical foundation for action and stewardship in the future.