Education and conservation
2017 Nature Days (Photo by Brent Calver)
This year, more than 80 students participated in Nature Days — a program that takes children outdoors and teaches them about the value of nature and conservation. On September 26 and 27, students from Escuela Collingwood Elementary in Calgary spent their time outdoors at a special conservation site called the Nodwell property, located in Horseshoe Canyon.
Supported by HSBC Bank Canada and delivered by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), this program uses conservation areas as living classrooms and takes urban kids into wild spaces to learn about nature.
The students spent their time engaging in three activities. The first was building vegetation frames, which are a simple, yet effective tool constructed from PVC pipes and deployed on NCC properties across Alberta. These frames will be used to do quadrant assessments of grassland health.
Dividing into teams, the students also participated in a scavenger hunt. Armed with iPads loaded with a map and geocache locations, they explored the area, using visual observations and navigational skills to search for geocaches. At each geocache location, the teams completed tasks that educated the students about the local landscape and the species that inhabit it. Some of the geocache prizes were biofacts on loan from the Calgary Zoo, including replica skulls, horns, antlers and even a real dinosaur fossil to encourage the students to ask wildlife-related questions.
The third activity was an interpretive nature walk into Horseshoe Canyon, during which the group explored the Badlands landscape and learned about the plant and animal species that live there. Talking points included geology, rocks and minerals, fossils, dinosaurs and native species. The students were encouraged to reflect and enjoy the natural world while getting in touch with their senses.
Over the course of their lunch hour, the students sorted their waste products into recyclables, biodegradables, reusable materials, and toxic or non-biodegradable materials. Together, the group brainstormed ideas of ways to further reduce their waste impact.
Even before it belonged to NCC, the Nodwell property had a history of conservation. The early days of the Horseshoe Canyon project is credited to Leila Nodwell, who passed away in April 2000. She believed in the importance of maintaining the canyon’s natural state and worked for years as an interpreter on the site, where she educated many visitors and ran the conservation centre.
In tribute to Leila’s memory, the Nodwell family purchased the 320 acres (130 hectares) that encompass the western half of the canyon and then sold the land to NCC to ensure it would be protected for the long term.
By bringing Nature Days to Horseshoe Canyon, Leila’s legacy of conservation and education continue to inspire the next generation to appreciate the natural world around them.
Check out photos from the day below.