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© 2017 Jennifer Reilly / LEAF
Every sunny day of my childhood, my family and our two dogs would walk into the forest behind our London, Ontario neighbourhood looking for adventure. No tree went unclimbed, no frog uncaught, no mud puddle unsplashed. Every summer day finished with muddy feet, scuffed knees and big smiles.
 

 

© Jennifer Reilly

Happy memories in nature with my brother

 

Working with LEAF this summer on a pilot project of our first ever Junior Urban Forest Rangers summer camp (Senior Urban Forest Ranger Jen, to the young campers), I had the incredible experience of sharing nature with 470 kids. 

© 2017 Jenniver Reilly / LEAF

Our Junior Urban Forest Rangers kit

 

City of Toronto day campers came to beautiful Riverdale East Park for a half day, to learn about trees and connect with nature in a fun and educational way. Every day began with asking campers to share what they thought the urban forest is and why it’s important.  Sitting beneath a beautiful maple tree, the kids shouted out many benefits that urban trees provide.  Making oxygen for us to breath and providing a home for cute creatures (though perhaps not the dragons and lions sometimes suggested) were just a couple. Campers as young as six were quick to realize our urban forest is important to the future of Toronto as they pictured a barren, tree-less Toronto void of clean air, shade, critters and beauty.

© 2017 Tooba Shakeel / LEAF

Urban Forest Rangers Arsh, Jen (me!), and Tooba

 

Easily the favourite part of the day was mulching and watering trees in the park.  With help from me and my fellow Senior Urban Forest Ranger, Arsh, the kids lugged buckets of mulch as big as they were and jumped up and down at the chance to water the tree after mulching. The opportunity to provide hands-on care to the trees and see the impact even one person can have was fun for the kids and inspiring for us. 

© 2017 Jenniver Reilly / LEAF

Love letters to trees by campers

 

At the end of the day, campers wore their new Junior Urban Forest Ranger badge with pride and promised to always be kind to trees. If even one camper goes on to make a difference in their community’s environment, I consider that a success.  

© 2017 LEAF

 

Getting children actively caring for our urban forest creates a bond that benefits both nature and the child.  Hopefully it will provide one of many positive experiences in nature for these future politicians, entrepreneurs, professionals and citizens.  

 

LEAF’s Junior Urban Forest Ranger program is supported by City of Toronto and the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

 

Jennifer is LEAF’s Eco-Camp Coordinator.

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