By Mike Butler
Who doesn’t love the outdoors? We live in such a beautiful area, where all year there’s something exciting, fun, and fulfilling to do outdoors: biking, hiking, walking, running, skiing, snowshoeing, the list goes on. With Earth Adventures, the stakes have been raised in outdoor enjoyment!
Earth Adventures is a free resource (website and app) for families and small youth groups that provides easy-to-follow instructions for self-guided activities on thirty short trails in some of the most popular and beautiful locales in Halifax and Kings Counties. Earth Adventures was created by a team of collaborators that includes Alan Warner (Professor Emeritus in Community Development at Acadia University), George Taylor (former head of the outdoor recreation and education section of Parks and Recreation Services for Halifax Regional Municipality), and Janet Barlow (Executive Director of Hike Nova Scotia), among others. For a full list of collaborators, please visit earthadventures.ca.
Earth Adventures originally started out as a book that was first published in 2002 by Alan Warner, George Taylor and Janet Barlow of the HRM Adventure Earth Centre, with illustrations by Lois Bearden. Initially, the project was a response to the need for outdoor programming that parents and guardians could do with their children in a less structured format than a day camp or other formalized outdoor program. Earth Adventures provides families with a compelling storyline and activities that are trail-specific, encouraging families to spend time outdoors together in a fun and engaging way. The project is sponsored by the Department of Community Development at Acadia University and supported by Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Cultures, and Heritage, regional municipalities and Glooscap First Nation.
While Earth Adventures is targeted towards children aged five to twelve, people of all ages can participate and reap the benefits of this great system. This app is a breath of fresh air (literally) for those itching to experience what nature has to offer. It’s a great tool for teens to use to lead younger children as well, when working in a youth program scenario. Earth Adventures is for everyone and all you need is enthusiasm!
As the website explains, the traits of a successful wizard (trail leader), include “the sparkle in your eyes, the enthusiasm in your style and your participation along with the kids.” What was at first a book, is now a digitized adventure system. The trail adventure guides are now phone-friendly, with the option to download the trail information prior to heading out for easy phone access (there is also the option to print out a PDF version of the trail information), and there is also an option to upload photos taken along the trail to a photo gallery on the website. With the digitization of Earth Adventures, the response from users will be in real-time, with an opportunity to provide feedback and submit photos after every trail.
When asked about the goals and ambitions for Earth Adventures, founder Alan Warner notes that “the exciting thing about Earth Adventures is that it can be used several times by a family as kids grow and they explore new parts of each area and trail. Beyond that, since it is a COVID-friendly way to get kids out in nature, there is a particular interest in it in the coming year. Two new trails for Kings County (in Berwick and Kingston), written by Marina Myra and supported by Kings County Recreation, are about to be published online. Two more are in the works for the next year. There has also been interest from other locales and the template is something others can use and then make it their own, designing it for their specific trail and interests.”
While summer seems like the best season for Earth Adventures, who doesn’t love outdoor winter activities as well? Warner agrees: “The Kentville Ravine and the Wolfville Millennium trails are both great on cold and windy days as they are tucked down out of the wind. Miner’s Marsh is beautiful on a sunny winter day with less wind”
Every project needs motivations and with Earth Adventures it was easy: to help kids have fun and explore in nature, particularly in a Covid-19 world. Education is at the heart of the philosophy behind Earth Adventures and it is a unique approach that focuses on “integrated experiential programs” in an effort to “meaningfully address environmental problems.” The underlying goal of the Earth Adventures resource is to provide families and individuals with the opportunity to connect with nature, and to understand the key ecological systems within our communities. With a deeper understanding and connection to the natural environment, people are more likely to change their lifestyles in ways that are sustainable for the long-term.
In many ways, the timing of the Covid-19 pandemic spurred on the digitization process, as spending time outdoors is one of the few pandemic-friendly activities that families can do together. The newly launched Earth Adventures website and phone app provided kids and families with a much needed escape from the indoors and a Covid-centered life. Earth Adventures encourages users to follow all safety guidelines and protocols when using local trails. So go out, have fun and love your time together!
Images: Lois Bearden