The first day of autumn at Scout Island Nature Centre is the day we say goodbye to our summer staff.
This year we’ve been lucky enough to have Patrick Newsome back for his third year, and he’s been a great resource for Sienna Hoffos and Geneva Gordon.
All three are returning to university to pursue studies in the sciences. It’s always a little poignant, but also fulfilling, to witness how they grow in knowledge and confidence through the season.
From early May until the end of school, they taught nature lore at schools and at the Nature House.
As soon as school ended, they began developing Nature Fun adventures for kids aged 3-13. At five separate programs a week, this is a really demanding work load.
Each session incorporates a short lesson relating to the week’s theme, games, crafts and lots of outdoor time.
During Bird Week, kids learned to identify the birds that visit us for the summer and studied their nesting behaviour, what type of feathers they have, what they eat and how they use their special “tools” (different types of beaks) for gathering their favourite food.
During Mammal Week they handled animal skulls, dissected specimens, studied bats and their amazing echolocation skills, learned how the local mammals will be getting ready for winter soon, and even “became” Beavers for a day and mimicked their awesome adaptations!
Our special Art in Nature six-hour Nature Fun Tuesdays for kids 8-13 were really popular this year. Our “frequent flyers” were assigned to the weekly observation and feeding of specific animals in the Nature House exhibits and became pros at their tasks.
Art projects included: papier maché insects, giant volcano eruption, origami lotus flowers, realistic bird drawings, model caddis fly homes, model beaver lodges of collected clay and mud, amphibian/reptile mini books, “fossils” and tracks moulded in clay, and a photography day.
A Voyageur Canoe excursion has become a much-anticipated annual tradition, and this year 18 Nature Fun kids (plus adult staff and volunteers) tried out their paddling skills on the lake, and they got to see kingfishers. For some it was their very first experience in a boat.
We see autumn’s approach in other ways. The three osprey chicks that were hatched and reared atop the nesting pole are flying and hunting on their own.
The parents appear to consider them ready for independent life, and have departed on their long migration to Central/South America.
The bees in our observation hive had a stellar season, and their honey will soon be ready for the second extraction of the year.
A bumper crop of choke cherries is helping the chickadees store up energy for the winter. The buck is following the doe and her fawns around with a glint in his eye.
While kids shop for school supplies and teachers gestate lesson plans, permanent Nature Centre staff are gearing up for busy academic season. There is no pre-school this year, but the new School District 27 program Tales and Trails for zero to five year olds will be using the Nature Centre regularly.
This loosely-structured program offers lots of nature-based experiences, including stories, songs and dawdling along the trails. Call 398-3839 for information.
We’re especially excited that Frances McCoubrey is joining the staff as Outdoor Education Resource Teacher for the school district.
Frances will work at Scout Island, in the schools and at other outdoor sites to provide nature-based/multi-age learning experiences for teachers and students. She will be working closely with other Nature Centre educators. This half-time position is being created in partnership School District No. 27, and we are providing the funding for it. It’s exciting to see the school district embrace nature education.
The Grade Seven Outdoor Education Academy will again use the Nature Centre regularly. We also offer a wide range of programs for K-12 school classes, and work with teachers to supplement their regular curricula. Teachers are encouraged to book early by phoning 250-398-8532.
So while the Autumnal Equinox is still a few weeks away, the kids, the teachers and the creatures of Scout Island are already in transition mode. We can all look forward to the swans!
Jenny Noble is the co-ordinator at the Scout Island Nature Centre.