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Outdoor Learning expands within Georgian Bay Biosphere

Outdoor Learning expands within Georgian Bay Biosphere

Lessons in a Backpack outside. Photo credit: A. Graham

Lessons-in-a-Backpack supported by National Sciences and Engineering Research Council

The Government of Canada wants every young person to discover a passion for science and has dedicated $11.9 million in funding through 163 grants under the PromoScience Program. One of those grants is going to the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve’s (GBBR) core education program, “Lessons-in-a-Backpack” for students in grades 1 to 12. GBBR has been invited to offer the lessons throughout the Near North District School Board, to First Nation schools, and to schools in the Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic Board. 

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport announced the grants in September 2018 in Ottawa and said: “Our government understands the importance of fostering a culture of curiosity and a passion for science among our children and youth. PromoScience funding will help inspire young Canadians to make science part of their education, their careers and their lives. When we support young Canadians, as these grants will do, we are building a brighter future for our entire country.”

GBBR’s Lessons-in-a-Backpack (LIAB) program was developed in 2009 in partnership with educators and with the support of individual donors and grants. Lesson plans are designed to engage children in making personal connections with nature and in thinking critically about human impact. There are resources and extension activities in each lesson, so teachers can continue with key messages.

“We’re currently able to reach 700 students annually with direct GBBR staff support”, said Delaina Arnold, GBBR’s Education & Stewardship Coordinator. “The lessons were designed for any teacher to use, so many more students participate directly with their teacher. It is exciting to see familiarity with the program and with GBBR within schools grow. Many students now recognize GBBR as an organization, and that they live in a world biosphere reserve. They may be involved in several LIABs throughout their educational career, becoming ambassadors for our region.”

PromoScience funding will support more classes and students to participate in LIABs with GBBR and will help facilitate the creation of new lessons which focus on water quality and climate change, as well as cultural lesson plans informed by Anishinabek teachings with a Cultural Specialist.

“GBBR is a local leader in environmental education with students of all ages” says Grade 10 science teacher Kristy Kujala. “Whether presenting to my students about the State of the Bay and local climate change impacts, or leading class visits about local wildlife to my children in grades 2 and 4.”

The PromoScience Program delivered through NSERC supports hands-on learning experiences for young Canadians and teachers. This program not only inspires the next generation of scientists, it also makes sure people in communities across the country have access to job opportunities that fulfil their passion for science. These grants reached more than 1 million young people last year.

Quick Facts

  • GBBR’s Lessons in a Backpack offers 29+ lesson units for grades 1 to 12 and are free to download
  • Over 50,000 downloads of GBBR school resources have occurred since 2007.
  • Land-based learning is central to Indigenous programming and cultural practices
  • NSERC’s PromoScience Program offers financial support for non-profit organizations working with young Canadians to promote an understanding of science and engineering, including mathematics and technology.
  • In Budget 2018, the Government of Canada proposed a historic investment of nearly $4 billion over five years in research and the next generation of researchers.
  • The Government of Canada is committed to promoting a culture where young people and the public are engaged and excited about science, through campaigns including #choosescience and #ScienceAroundMe.

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