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Media Release: Hamilton teens help nature as a result of Carolinian Canada’s Grow Wild! Boot Camps

Students Shyann Jenkins (L.) and Emily Whellen (R.) handle a native snake as part of Carolinian Canada’s Grow Wild! Boot Camp (photo: Bronwen Buck)

Hamilton – September 29th, 2014 – Take an idea and run with it! That’s what 100 high school students are doing as a result of Carolinian Canada’s Grow Wild! Species at Risk Boot Camps. This special workshop series is prompting them to think about how they can develop their great ideas to develop species-at-risk-friendly outreach projects.

On Friday, September 26th, twenty students from an Environmental Studies Class and Green Team, the environmental club at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School completed the Grow Wild! Boot Camp. Students learned about the Carolinian Life Zone through live snake demonstrations, presentations and games. They then rose to the challenge of designing their own projects based on a local issue that sparked their interest. 

Earlier this year, Carolinian Canada delivered a number of workshops to high school students in Chatham-Kent, Essex, Elgin and Niagara to teach them about the importance of local nature and empower students to help. Many of the species living in this area of southern Ontario known as the Carolinian Life Zone are in peril. Currently, more than 500 species are listed as rare, endangered or threatened.

Some Sir Winston Churchill students decided they would work with their school’s tech class to create habitat such as bird boxes and feeders for the schoolyard.  Others began developing an educational campaign they could roll out across their school that would provide facts and stewardship actions for local Species at Risk.  Another group began designing road signs to help protect turtles and snakes for next spring when they are often seen on roads.  While others, a YouTube video on local biking trails with important messages on how to keep them benefiting bikers and protecting natural areas.

Community volunteer, Jenn Noble from SOGO, Southern Ontario GO!, a local hiking club was present to assist students in developing their ideas.  In the future she is happy to help them develop their ideas towards the implementation of trail and hiking-related projects.

Teachers Mr. Watson, Mrs. Burgess and Mr. Hall helped organize the Boot Camp. “I think the students were unaware how many species were endangered and threatened due to urbanization in the region. This opened their eyes to the seriousness of the situation,” says Burgess. Hall adds, “The [hands-on] opportunity allowed the students to develop a connection to the environment and our local area. They can now take something they are passionate about and educate others on the issue.”  

Environmental educator, Lauren Selby, notes students typically suggest people can “bike more” or “plant trees” as ways to help nature. But by the workshop’s conclusion, Selby receives more informed, impassioned answers to the same question. “Students tell me about the huge need for more environmental education, describe the importance of planting native plants and let me know that Ontario’s snakes are harmless and should not be hurt.” She says, “At the end of the day, the empowerment and connection to their local environment is incredible.” 

It’s the cumulative results of local actions, such as those taken by students, which fuel Carolinian Canada’s Big Picture vision of connecting people to nature and creating an ecologically linked landscape. Carolinian Canada Coalition plans to continue to seek funding for next school year to reach new students as well re-visit and support existing campaigns.

Carolinian Canada is thankful for the support of TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and the Ontario Government for making these workshops possible.

About Carolinian Canada Coalition:  Carolinian Canada Coalition brings together diverse groups and individuals to advance a collaborative conservation strategy for healthy ecosystems and thriving communities in the Carolinian Life Zone.  Stretching from Toronto to Windsor, Canada’s Deep South is among North America’s most vibrant and fragile ecoregions.

For Media Contact and Inquiries:

Bronwen Buck, Outreach Coordinator, bbuck@carolinian.org, 519-341-3199

Lauren Selby, Environmental Educator, 519-994-4326

Website: caroliniancanada.ca

For a press kit and higher resolution photos, visit: https://carolinian.box.com/s/r5wlo04uk0k2x7hxv257

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Carolinian Canada Coalition brings together diverse groups and individuals to advance a collaborative conservation strategy for healthy ecosystems and thriving communities in the Carolinian Life Zone. Stretching from Toronto to Windsor, Canada’s Deep South is among North America’s most vibrant and fragile ecoregions.

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