Fostering meaningful connections between children and nature at an early age to inspire life long compassion for the environment.
The Goal -
We want children to experience the awe and wonder of nature at a young age and grow to be active stewards of the ocean.
It has become increasingly rare for children, especially those living in urban centres, to spend time outdoors engaging with nature. The result of this disconnect is a lack of both compassion for nature and understanding of our direct impact on the environment. Our goal with AquaCamps at the Vancouver Aquarium, an Ocean Wise initiative, is to provide an engaging experience where children connect directly with nature, explore the awe and wonder of aquatic environments, and develop an understanding of their role within nature. We believe a strong connection with nature from a young age leads to life-long environmental stewardship and that this is essential to the successful conservation of nature.
The Solution -
AquaCamps are rooted in experiential and environmental education to facilitate connection between children and aquatic life.
When a child attends AquaCamps at the Vancouver Aquarium, they go on an experiential journey to explore the secrets of the ocean. To connect children directly with nature, each camp spends time at the beach where campers are encouraged to lead the exploration wherever their curiosity guides them. Our educators share the awe and wonder of the oceans with our campers by spending our mornings in the galleries where children get up close to critters usually hidden beneath the ocean’s surface. AquaCamps help children build understanding of our impact on the Ocean through role-play games and activities that put campers in the shoes of ocean animals affected by pollution, habitat destruction, over fishing and other challenges introduced by humans. However, to ensure campers leave feeling hopeful about the environment’s future, these activities highlight the small actions we can take, no matter how young we are, to help these animals and ecosystems. Lastly, we believe it is important that our campers actively participate in environmental stewardship so they leave feeling empowered. This is why we invite our campers to do a shoreline clean up during their week at camp. Our campers have the unique opportunity to spend their five-day camp immersed in nature, even when indoors as our aquarium exhibits bring campers closer to unique marine life than many of them have ever been.
The Results -
AquaCamps provides children between the ages of four and twelve the opportunity to connect with nature and develop passion for environmental stewardship. Each year over one thousand campers attend AquaCamps during spring and summer programs with many returning year after year. When our campers eventually grow to be too old to participate as campers, we see them transition to work experience volunteers continuing on their journey as conservation leaders. During the spring and summer of 2017, we had 1057 campers go on 136 beach walks, spend 52 days exploring the oceans and participate in 10 shoreline clean ups!
- Design activities that create a hopeful vision for the future of our environment rather than focusing on doom and gloom narratives.
- Spend time outdoors! Connecting with nature means spending time immersed in it.
- Educational activities can be fun and effective by including three key components: knowledge, action and reflection.