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Boot Camp photos by Owen Williams

Take an idea and run with it! That's what 90 high school students are doing as a result of Carolinian Canada's Grow Wild! Species at Risk Boot Camps. School might be out soon, but the habitat-friendly outreach projects they are developing are gaining momentum as a result of this special workshop series.

Earlier this spring, Carolinian Canada delivered a number of Grow Wild! Boot Camps 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.

 

Students from East Elgin Secondary School's Environmental Leadership Program gathered together to kick off their future fall semester together by participating in the Grow Wild! Workshop. 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.

 

By the end of the day, teams of students had begun developing their projects. They include:

  • An information campaign on local invasive species and how to control and eradicate them;
  • An awareness campaign about the rare Barn Owl (includes nest box construction)
  • Mentoring a local elementary school through implementing the citizen science program Project Feedwatch
  • Going door to door to educate people on the importance native plants.

Local community volunteers from local organizations such as Kettle Creek Conservation Authority, Bird Studies Canada, and the Ontario Invasive Plant Council were on hand to assist the students in developing their campaigns. In the future, they will help link students with key individuals and organizations to assist them in their implementation.

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, that 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.


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