North Face grants helps underprivileged schools get back to nature

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Sept 16, 2019 – As many as 250 students will experience the great outdoors this year – some for the very first time – thanks to a $5,000 grant from The North Face Canada Explore Fund.

The Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation has been campaigning to help 50 schools access outdoor education programs at local conservation areas in the 2019/2020 school year. The North Face grant will cover tuition and transportation costs for eight priority schools across the region.

The programs are run by the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority’s (RVCA) certified outdoor education teachers at Baxter and Foley Mountain conservation areas. They welcome more than 10,000 elementary and secondary school students to their curriculum-based programs every year for hands-on experiences in nature, from catching frogs tosnowshoeing.

But not all students can afford to take part. There are at least 37 priority schools in the Rideau Valley region where funding simply isn’t available for “extras” like outdoor education. To make matters worse, these studentsare often most lackingquality time in nature: many of them are new to Canada or live in urban communities where walking among the trees, exploring a wetland or building winter shelters is completely unfamiliar. 

And it’s not just a missed day of fun. There’s a growing body of evidence that learning through outdoor active play has positive effects on a child's physical, emotional, and intellectual health.More and more, children suffer from “nature deficit disorder” – a lack of connection with the natural world.

RVCA staff use the Ministry of Education’s list of priority schools – determined based on national census income data – and work with local school boards directly to identify schools that would benefit from financial support to get their students outside and into nature.

With support from The North Face Fund and other donors, the RVCA is fostering a new generation of confident explorers, nature-lovers and environmental stewards – a key reason the program was one of only seven across Canada chosen for The North Face support in 2019. 

“The Explore Fund searches out and supports organizations that use the power of exploration and the benefits of nature to strengthen communities around the country,”said Carl Bissonnette, Sr. Canadian marketing manager for the fund. “We are delighted to work with the Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation to help children access nature.”

For more information about the RVCA’s educational programs, visit www.rvca.ca/outdoor-education.

To support the Foundation’s conservation efforts, visit www.rvcf.ca.

                                                                   

Joanne Mahoney