Like many industrialized countries, Canada has become a country of city dwellers with more than 80 per cent of us living in an urban environment. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in Ontario where we have the highest concentration of city folk in the country with 85 per cent of us living in an urban environment.

Perhaps no group of people is more critical to reach in our community than our young people, in particular the ones entering their teenage years who are beginning to create their own life experiences. They are a generation who have grown up using technology and may be afflicted with the term coined by Richard Louv (author of Last Child in the Woods), ‘nature deficit disorder’. In simple terms, rather than play outside, they play inside.

“Nature-deficit disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illness. This disorder can be detected in individuals, families, and communities.”
Richard Louv, ast Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

It is for this reason and many other important ones that Conservation Halton is committed to outdoor recreation and lifelong education. The Halton Forest Festival is a relatively new addition to the Conservation Halton suite of educational programs and in short order has been very popular since launching in 2012.

The Forest Festival takes place in October at Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area and features four education days for 1,600 students in grades 6 and 7, as well as a Public Day open to the entire community during Conservation Halton’s Fall into Nature event.

The Halton Forest Festival is intended to inspire youth to become good land stewards by building relationships with the natural world. It also promotes the benefits of forests to human and environmental health, as well as reinforcing the importance of forests to our ecosystem.

The 2016 Forest Festival education event is scheduled for October 13, 14, 17 and 18. It has 26 different activities which complement in-class learning with curriculum-linked outdoor, experiential education for students. The activities cover six themes, Biodiversity and Species at Risk; Climate Change; Forest Ecosystems and Interactions; Forest Resources; Stewardship and Conservation; and Urban Forestry. The activity could have students digging in the soil to learn how its layers are created, or taking a hike along the Niagara Escarpment to understand more about its formation.

The public day was held October 2 and offered learning for residents of all ages through displays and hands on activities. Attendees could build a bird nest box, or test their lumberjack, speed, strength and teamwork with the Cross Saw Demonstration. They could become a citizen scientist with Ontario Nature learning how to identify, track, and monitor Ontario’s native reptile and amphibian species. Thanks to guides from the Bruce Trail Iroquoia Club, visitors had the chance to enjoy an informative hike through the amazing forest at Rattlesnake Point and learn what makes it so important and special.

The Forest Festival is just one way for young people to connect with nature at a Conservation Halton park, and we encourage you and your family to get outside and enjoy all the activities available. We’ll leave the last word to Richard Louv, “Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health” (and also, by the way, in our own).

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Last modified: September 5, 2017

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