At JUFR, we hope to spark interest in the kids of today and adults of tomorrow to be champions of the urban forest. While we have many outdoor based activities which engage children as well as teach them about their local flora and fauna, the two most engaging are arguably “Salamander Survival” and “Tree Care Activity.”
Tools: “tails” made of cloth, pylons
Rules: Everyone gets a salamander tail which they tuck into their pants or waistband. They run around in the borders dictated by the pylons and pull each other’s tails out. Once a tail is removed, the person who initially had it takes it back (that’s because salamander tails can grow back) and steps out of the border. They count to 10 Urban Forests (1 Urban Forest, 2 Urban Forest…) and can re-enter the game after. The border shrinks as it is being played, increasing the difficulty.
Takeaway: Simple, effective, engaging, but most importantly, it helps drive a few points home. Salamanders (along with a majority of species) are suffering from habitat loss. As their habitat decreases, competition among species increases while making them vulnerable to other threats, such as predators, and more susceptible to extinction. The importance of trees is also established, as trees are a significant part of Salamander habitats, and deforestation is their biggest threat.
Tree Care Activity
Our “Tree Care Activity” consists of mulching and watering trees. While this may just seem like work, the way it is integrated into the JUFR program highlights the importance of the activity. At this point of the schedule, the kids have come to understand how important trees are to humans and other animals. So tree care is seen as a way for us to help provide for trees in a similar way that trees provide for us.
Tools: Gloves, watering cans, buckets, mulch
Rules: Everyone gets gloves and then fills a bucket with mulch (two campers to a bucket). They then take it to a tree and start removing weeds and grass at the tree base. Afterward, they pour the mulch in a donut shape. Finally, they water the tree.
Those are just two different ways to help kids feel engaged and connected to nature. While long distance trips which take you away from the city are always exciting and adventurous, they are not necessary in order to connect to nature. The urban forest is an integral part of the city and has much to offer!
Rabib Naim is the Youth Programs Assistant at LEAF. He is a graduate of the Environmental Studies Program at York University.
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.