William Newberry, Marlie Russell, and Kasey Stirling are this year’s summer students at the Scout Island Nature Centre. They are leading programs aimed at teaching more about nature to youth. Tara Sprickerhoff photos

Scout Island summer students have fun teaching outdoors in the city

Kasey Stirling, Marlie Russell and William Newberry teach and learn on the job

It’s not your everyday summer job.

Kasey Stirling, Marlie Russell and William Newberry are spending the summer working with bugs, plants, and fish at the Scout Island Nature Centre.

The three summer students are enthusiastic about the critters they are working with, and are very excited to transmit their, sometimes new found, knowledge to students in classes and nature programs around the nature centre.

Stirling, 22, is a student of molecular biology and biochemistry at Simon Fraser University.

She went to preschool at Scout Island, and worked on and off at the nature centre through high school with French immersion students.

“I thought this was a perfect way to spend the time outside,” she says. Stirling comes to the island with a diploma in herbalism, and, alongside the bird program, has redeveloped the plant program at the nature centre, turning it into one that focuses on Indigenous uses of plants in the area.

Though she grew up in Williams Lake, Stirling hails from the Nlaka’pamux First Nation near Merritt, and is also Mi’kmaq Métis and Acadienne.

She is incorporating some of her learnings from Nlaka’pamux elders and her background in herbalism into the plant programs at the nature centre.

Read more: Fighting for environment, one student at a time

Russell, 21, is taking computer science at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan.

“I wanted an outside job and I’m thinking of going into teaching, so I was hoping this would tell me if that was a yes or a no,” she says.

She works with bugs at the nature centre, as well as running the nature detective program — which all three students say is one of the neater programs on the island.

“With nature detective we set up crime scenes around the island with different animals and tracks and some carcasses and then the kids get a map and they have to go around and figure out what happened at each scene,” says Russell.

“Bugs is pretty straight forward. You get to hold bugs, look at bugs, learn about bugs, and then do a bug hunt.”

William Newberry, 20, is doing the physics program at Simon Fraser University. It’s his second summer working at the nature centre.

“At the time I was looking for an outside job — just any outside job — so I decided to take it and it turned out to be really fun teaching kids,” he says.

He works with the reptile and amphibian programs, but he also does ocean lessons in time with the fry release program, as classes release salmon fry into the river on their way to the ocean.

While he hopes to eventually go to the University of Victoria to do a masters in environmental engineering, he says he loves working with the students.

Read more: Fred McMechan retires as president of Scout Island

“My favourite thing has been working with some of the less fortunate kids. Some of them have very tough home lives and they respond to certain types of teaching and certain ways of talking, so figuring out what works for these kids has been really rewarding.”

In fact, all three of the students list working with children as some of the best parts about their summer job.

“Chatting with them, they’ve got some funny stories,” says Russell. “Apparently there is an alligator at Nesika. I didn’t know that. You learn new things every day.”

Stirling says she enjoys seeing other Indigenous students perk up when she identifies as Native.

“I remember being a Native kid, hearing about stuff talked about as if we are in the past or if everything is negative … We were never told about cool things that Indigenous people are doing now. So for them to see an Indigenous person self-identifying and talking about things and doing new lessons, the Native kids really respond well to that. It’s something I wish I had when I was a kid and I am glad I can give that to them.”

The three are looking forward to the summer nature programs offered by the Scout Island Nature Centre.

“You get to go a little more in depth and play a lot more games and expand on the things that you would teach them normally,” says Newberry.

Having grown up in Williams Lake, and now working at the nature centre, the students have many favourite things about the island itself.

“I like the sounds. Just walking through the trees and when you really start to listen you hear so many different kinds of birds,” says Newberry.

“I definitely like walking into work in the morning and seeing all the different tracks and the birds everyday,” says Stirling.

Russell, who works with insects, says she has a new appreciation for bugs.

“Bugs are really, really cool. They are not gross.”

“There is always something different happening, so even for the general public that just like to take walks there is always something new every week,” says Stirling.

“I’m not sure many people realize the different things that come in and out, the different birds that migrate through, the turtles, so even if people think they know what is at Scout Island and they see it once they should come back.”

Read more: Buzz about bugs at Scout Island banquet

Summer Fun in Nature programs run at the Nature Centre from July 9 to Aug. 23

Nature Fun programs for ages four to eight, run half days, Monday and Tuesdays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. or from 1 to 3 p.m., Thursday from 1 to 3 p.m. and Fridays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Tales and Trails, for those aged zero to five-years-old (with a caregiver) run Thursdays from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at no charge.

Art in Nature Adventures for those aged eight to 13, $25 run Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and include art,mentored by local artists, exploring, observing and games at a slow summer time rhythm.

To register, call 250-398-8532 or email scoutisland@shaw.ca.”

For the nature fun programs a lot of people might think this is only for the really science heavy kids who love bugs or they love birds but i think almost any kid would have fun if they came out to our nature fun sessions,” says Newberry.


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Kasey Stirling, alongside leading programs on birds, has also revamped the plants program at the Nature Centre to include Indigenous uses of plants. Here she stands with a sage plant, commonly used in ceremonies in the area. Tara Sprickerhoff photo

Marlie Russell holds a small snail and a magnifying glass used for bugs. She’s leading programs on bugs and the nature detective program at the centre.

William Newberry holds a starfish inside the Scout Island Nature Centre. He’s been teaching oceans programs at the Nature Centre where he has worked for the past two years.

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