Since the pandemic stopped thousands of visitors who once connected to the natural beauty of the Long Point Biosphere Reserve, members of the biosphere’s foundation have been looking for ways to connect nature back to the people.
Val Hickey, the chair of the foundation, said the goal has been to use digital tools to make a personal connection between kids and nature, even when the kids can’t be out in the forest.
“During COVID, we couldn’t bring school tours down as usual so we developed a program where small groups could come and go on hikes guided by our Cynthia Brink that still enabled people to unit with nature,” said Hickey.
And, by creating mini films of some tours around the Carolinian forest, the plan is to provide the videos to classrooms so kids can be both educated and encouraged to get outside.
The first of those films in the Naturehood series – Screen Time or Green Time – was posted to YouTube several months ago.
On Sept. 25, the foundation announced a $55,500 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation that will further help the group rebuild and recover from the impact of the pandemic by creating even more nature programming.
“We’re really excited to provide innovative digital concepts and education,” Hickey told a group of foundation members gathered for the charity’s annual general meeting at Long Point Eco Adventures in St. Williams.
By using podcasts, video and downloadable lessons, the foundation aims to digitize “face-to-face nature programming” with lesson plans that can be picked up by teachers, families and any member of the public.
“We’ve been managing the project since May and so far have seven lessons that help make that connection with nature,” Hickey said. “And we’re connecting with some really interesting story-tellers who talk about their personal connections with nature and their sense of well-being there.”
The charity has already released two episodes of a podcast – In Sync With Nature – on Spotify and Apple podcasts.
“We’re currently crafting three new episodes to be released monthly,” said Hickey.
Another project is a video series showcasing various biospheres in a series of mini-films that will be released on YouTube later in the fall.
At the annual meeting, Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett congratulated the foundation on winning the Trillium Grant and honoured the “commonality” he sees among the hunters, fishers, scientists, researchers and others who work within the biosphere and all seem to communicate with each other.
“It’s a bit of a miracle we have this place in comparison to what happened in Hamilton and in Toronto and we see why people from those places come here because they lost what they had.”
The foundation for the biosphere promotes research, monitoring, community outreach and education, partnerships and projects that support goals of biodiversity conservation and sustainable communities in Norfolk County.
It works with other biosphere reserves in Canada and around the world.