Sunday, May 28, 2006
New club ideal for budding naturalists
By Janet Barlow
The Daily News
Do you have a child who loves nature? This is the kid who catches every insect he or she
sees, picks up snakes without hesitation and asks hard questions like, “What kind of
lichen is that?” If you do, chances are you’ve got a budding naturalist on your hands.
And chances are, your child will be into the new Young Naturalists Club. Next weekend,
he or she can give the club a try at an open house.
“I think a club like the Young Naturalists Club is really needed right now,” says coordinator
Karen McKendry. “It connects children with nature – teaches them some
naturalist and observation skills that I think maybe aren’t taught in the classroom, or are
starting to be lost.”
McKendry was a leader with a young naturalists club in Ottawa. When she moved here,
she hoped to find a club and get involved. Since there was no club, she decided to start
one herself. She contacted the Museum of Natural History and the Halifax Field
Naturalists, and they jumped on board.
The project fits in well with her path in life; McKendry is working on a master’s degree in
environmental studies at Dalhousie.
The club is free, and geared for children and youth ages eight and older. Regular monthly
meetings and field trips start in September.
Young Naturalist meetings are similar to an adult field naturalist meeting. An elected
president opens the meeting, attendance is taken, and then members’ recent nature
observations are recorded.
Invited guests speak on nature topics or run skills workshops, such as how to use
binoculars or how to make a plaster cast of an animal track. Later in the month, they’ll go
on a field trip and have a chance to use their new skills or knowledge.
The Young Naturalists Club open house will take place Saturday at the Museum of
Natural History on Summer Street in Halifax.
“We’re hoping that families can come get a taste and smell and touch of what the club
would be like in the fall,” McKendry says. “It would be a condensed version of what
being in the club would be like.”
Between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., families can drop by and meet some naturalists. Kids can learn about bogs, lichens, birds and the mud of the Bay of Fundy at hands-on displays.
They can also check out a naturalist’s tools, such as binoculars and magnifying glasses.
Then at 2 p.m., naturalists will lead walks on the trails of Uniacke Estate Museum Park in
Mount Uniacke (see www.naturens.ca for directions). Families can come for the whole
day or just parts of it.
“I think it facilitates a natural instinct or innate love that children have for nature,” says
McKendry of the club.
“I don’t think we need to instill that, I think that occurs naturally. So this just helps kids
get to nature, helps them learn a little bit more about it, helps them explore.”
Janet Barlow is an environmental educator and co-author of the trail activity book Earth
Adventures in the Halifax Region: 24 Nature Trails for Fun and Discovery. She lives in