Our day started by approaching the St. Matthew’s Clubhouse where two friendly people awaited the group. Wearing bright green shirts, proudly displaying the LEAF logo, they enthusiastically introduced themselves as Senior Urban Forest Rangers.
Snack time was quick and, after a small orientation which included - the basic camp rules and some questions about the group’s knowledge of Toronto’s urban forest, we moved below the canopy of the park’s large trees to get the fun started!
I had the pleasure of seeing the campers participate wholeheartedly on the day’s activities. From pretending to be salamanders competing for resources as their borders decreased due to habitat loss to having to act out the wildlife found in our urban forest, the kids ran, laughed, learned and played.
The most amazing thing was what happened after the game ended, however. When the Senior Rangers called for a stop, the kids settled into a circle where together, as a group, they discussed the lessons learned from the activity. It only took a couple of minutes for the campers to start racing each other to raise their hands first in order to answer the questions and
Next, we moved towards tables set up with paints to learn about the many ways trees have been the inspiration for art and storytelling across many different cultures, including Indigenous artists from Canada and beyond. After a short introduction, the group had the chance to stretch their artistic muscles and paint their own artwork. Having this time to relax after the high intensity of the previous activities gave the campers a chance to process the information they had learned.
At this point, the Senior Rangers knew the visiting campers understood the importance of the urban forest. But, what can we do to protect it? That’s when the group moved deeper into the park, towards the smaller trees. The trees that had recently been planted and that still need a little more love and care to grow. What can we do to protect them? Mulch and water them, of course! Working in teams, the campers worked together to weed, mulch and water two trees.
Much too soon, it was time to say goodbye, but not before the group’s graduation. With the pledge, “As a Junior Urban Forest Ranger, I pledge to care for the urban forest and to help others do the same,” the kids ‘graduated’ as Junior Urban Forest Rangers.
What I learned was that these two-hour workshops have a tremendous impact. The jam-packed, high-energy visit left kids with a newfound respect for the trees around us, the wildlife that shares the city with us and our role in protecting and caring for the nature around us.
The Junior Urban Forest Rangers program is supported by Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation and, in a way, it’s the perfect combination of all three departments. Visit this park and care for its trees. Learn about the urban forest and why it’s important. And, of course, have fun while doing it.
Daniela Serodio is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at LEAF.
The Junior Urban Forest Rangers program is supported by Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation.
LEAF offers a subsidized Backyard Tree Planting Program for private property. The program is supported by The City of Toronto, The Regional Municipality of York, The City of Markham, The Town of Newmarket, The Town of Ajax, Ontario Power Generation and Toronto Hydro. For details on how you can participate, visit http://yourleaf.org.