The cat and the Mudbug: a guide to using iNaturalist

Cellphones have changed our lives in many ways. It seems like there’s an app available to cater to our every need, from baking to banking and all things in between.

In Ontario Parks, we generally encourage green time over screen time, however there’s one app we believe every visitor should have on their phone.

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5 ways to empower children to be explorers

Today’s post comes from Camille Koon, a Learning and Education Leader with Ontario Parks. 

“The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” – Alexandra K. Trenfor, educator

Every child who visits a park should see it as an exciting adventure waiting to unfold. With lakes, rivers, beaches, forests, fields, and more, the opportunities for discovery are endless.

By observing the diversity of plants and animals found in the outdoors, children discover the wonders of nature and develop a deeper appreciation for it.

Here are five ways we can empower all children to become explorers of the world around them.

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How will I know ecological integrity when I see it?

Preserving ecological integrity is a priority for all of us here at Ontario Parks. But just what does ecological integrity look like? Algonquin Provincial Park Naturalist David LeGros explains…

When I start many of my evening programs at Algonquin, I often ask the audience if they like nature.

Usually I get a lot of hands up in the air, but there are always a few that don’t put their hands up. I tell those people, “You might be in the wrong place, because Algonquin is crawling with nature.” I know these folks may have not been paying attention to what I was saying or chose not to participate in my survey, but it always gets a laugh from the crowd.

However, this did get me thinking about why we go to parks over staying home or visiting a big city…

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Hiking through Halfway Lake, discovery-style

Today’s post comes from Megan and Cora, two of Halfway Lake Provincial Park‘s discovery guides. 

As discovery guides, part of our job is inspiring, encouraging, and motivating visitor to explore and discover nature everywhere!

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Keeping up with the Canada Jay

Today’s blog post comes from bird researchers Alex Sutton and Koley Freeman, PhD candidates at the University of Guelph.

In the world of Canada Jays, winter means one thing: it’s breeding season!

Canada Jays are common in Algonquin Provincial Park. Continuing a 55 year-old tradition, a dedicated team of researchers is monitoring breeding pairs. This is the longest study of its kind in the world!

With each passing year, more is learned about the breeding behaviour and life history of these remarkable birds.

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A trip down the Pakeshkag River at Grundy Lake Provincial Park

Today’s post comes from Sonje Bols, a naturalist at Grundy Lake Provincial Park.

Part of a park naturalist’s job is to familiarize themselves with the natural and cultural wonders of their park through exploration.

Whether it’s tramping through bogs to catch and identify dragonflies, flipping rocks to look for snakes, or canoeing along ancient Indigenous canoe routes, naturalists set out to observe and explore every inch of their parks so they can bring that knowledge and experience to park visitors and managers.

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The scavenger hunt for survival

Today’s post comes from Anna Scuhr, a naturalist with Lake Superior Provincial Park. 

The arrival of snow and ice transforms the rugged landscape of Lake Superior Provincial Park into a stunningly beautiful, albeit unforgiving place to live.

As temperatures drop, the park can accumulate up to six feet of snow in the interior. This makes just about every aspect of an animal’s life more challenging.

Northern winters are a true test of an animal’s fitness. Let’s look at how they adapt to survive long, harsh winters.

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Lessons in nature at Kakabeka Falls

Big thanks to the students of Valley Central Public School, especially Olivia Davis (grade 7) and Paige Arnold (grade 8), for writing this post about their recent trip to Kakabeka Falls.

On September 19 students from Valley Central Public School headed to Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The students were excited to visit the park and take part in some outdoor learning activities.

Valley Central Grade 7 and 8 students are part of a new and exciting learning opportunity called Learning Academies.  Learning Academies are designed to engage students in community connected experiential learning opportunities. The program is focused on community sustainability, including exploring our natural and built environment, and fine arts.

As students, we are engaged in documenting our learning through e-portfolios, blogs, and social media as we learn to become responsible digital citizens and 21st century learners.

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A Natural Fit

Connecting with nature has lots of benefits.

It keeps us healthy by lowering our blood pressure and strengthening our immune system. It reduces our stress levels and keeps us physically fit.

It’s good for our emotional wellbeing too. Children who play in natural environments are more resilient and develop skills for dealing with stress later in life.

Parks provide unparalleled natural classrooms and recreation opportunities for people of all ages.

And now there’s a new initiative – developed jointly by federal, provincial and territorial governments – that focuses on the importance nature plays in our lives. Ministers responsible for parks across the country recently met in Ontario to finalize the Connecting Canadians with Nature report, which was co-ordinated through the Canadian Parks Council.

The report builds on what Ontario Parks is already doing.

Last year Ontario Parks offered more than 1,000 nature programs for 37,000 children. In addition, provincial parks offered nature-based education programs for more than 800 school groups and 20,000 children.

And Mom and Dad aren’t left out. Ontario Parks provide adult education programs as well.

Ontario Parks offers Learn to Camp and Learn to Fish programs, which introduce city dwellers to these great outdoor activities and encourages them to become life-long park users.

 

Many parks offer recreational opportunities and facilities to meet the needs of mature park visitors and people with disabilities, such as yurts, cabins, accessible comfort stations, campsites and trails.

Also, Ontario and seven not-for-profit partners have launched the Ontario Children’s Outdoor Charter to help children across the province develop a life-long connection with nature.

So, visit a park and connect with nature!