What’s Growing at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens–Getting Outside
By Melanie Priesnitz, Conservation Horticulturist
Acadia University recently had the pleasure of hosting over 330 environmental educators from across Canada during the 2017 Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication conference. So much magic happened at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens, and around campus, during the 3-day conference that it’s impossible to put it all into words. 130 presenters shared their stories and environmental education experiences with delegates. New connections were made, tears of wonder were shed, and great ideas were born. One clear take-away from the conference was the feeling of hope for our future from the realization of how many individuals are doing such great work to get people outside and connected to our earth. The range of participants was broad and included Parks Canada employees, NGO staff, school teachers, scientists, high school students, indigenous leaders, magazine publishers, and so many more.
The underlying message of the conference to me was simple. If we want to preserve our planet, we must first ensure people have positive connections with it. In order to want to conserve something, we must first learn to love it. There are a myriad of ways to learn about, and connect with, our natural world. Getting outside and interacting with nature is easy. It doesn’t have to cost any money–no fancy gear is needed. It can be as simple as staring up at the night sky, taking a walk around the block and listening to the birds, riding to the park for a picnic, or dipping your toes in the ocean. One important thing to remember about outdoor experiences is that they can happen year-round in all weather. One of the conference workshops was entitled “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather – Only Poor Clothing” and it’s very true. The Botanical Gardens and Acadia’s Woodland Trails on a rainy day are stunning. The frogs are chattier in the rain, the colours of the forest are more plentiful against a dull sky, and the smell of wet earth is an experience to behold.
If you want help connecting with nature, there are many organizations working locally to facilitate nature experiences from hot air balloon rides, guided walks, and outdoor yoga classes to horseback riding lessons. A great resource to learn about outdoor organizations across the province is just getting underway. Stay tuned to the Nova Scotia Outdoor Network where you can “get the inside on the outside!” at nsoutdoornetwork.ca. For information on The Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication visit eecom.org.