Learning in the Outdoors

By Hannah Gartner 

Childhood is a defining time in everyone’s life. The experiences had during this time can stay with and effect a person forever. This is especially true when it comes to connecting to the natural world. When I think of my own connection to nature, I see that it is rooted in the memories I have of hiking, sailing, and exploring during Summers in Maine. The younger someone is when they foster this connection, the deeper it is. However, modern children spend the majority of their time in doors. In the U.S., kids in public school have an average of 27 minutes of recess a day. Their time at home is typically spent inside playing video games and watching TV. Children are simply not spending enough time in the outdoors.


Source: Ars Technica 

This lack of outdoor time is especially harmful to the youngest schoolchildren. Research is developing that shows 3-7 year olds need free play, especially in the outdoors, to develop skills like critical thinking, risk management, and grit. The typical kindergarten includes more reading and math time than play time though. Children don’t get the chance to explore the world with their senses in these schools, but are expected to inherently understand how to use their brains and sit still. This is not where their development is at though. An exploration into the senses is necessary to develop critically thought, and the more a child moves and the stronger they are, meaning they can better hold themselves still for long periods of time. Free play, especially in the outdoors, is not just a nice thing for kids to do but a necessity for their healthy development.

In many parts of Europe this is already understood. Forest preschools have become common. The children who attend these schools spend every day, all day, outside, no matter the weather. They may have wooden shelters to hide from the rain and snow, and good clothing to keep them warm. Their playground is the forest around them – they climb the trees, get muddy in the brooks, and learn through interacting with the ecosystem. In the older grades this concentration on outdoor play continues, with many public schools offering recesses of over an hour in playgrounds that incorporate natural features such as trees and logs. Clearly this is a superior model for getting kids close to nature.


The Fiddleheads Forest School in Seattle, WA – Source: New York Times 

Some in the U.S. have realized the importance of the outdoors in childhood development. Forest playgrounds have begun to pop up around the country. Other types of alternative learning schools such as Waldorf and Montessori encourage both the free play and outdoor time children so desperately need. However, this type of learning is currently available only to those who can pay for it, and is confined to a few institutions. To truly make a difference this type of learning must be incorporated into the public school system. Our children are missing out on nature, and it is our job to make sure this deficit ends as soon as possible.

The Ways We Connect

By Hannah Gartner

The modern environmental movement is filled with calls to connect with the natural world. Over half of the world’s population now live in cities, and having gown up in a city myself I understand how easy being in the concrete jungle makes it forget that one is part of nature. Danger arises from this because human beings value and take care of what is seen as like them, and without any connection to the natural world there is no motivation to behave more sustainably. The environmentalist are therefore on the right path by encouraging connection with the natural world.

My own connection really began as a child, when I spent my Summers going to Maine and my afternoons walking the woods near my home in Philadelphia. Then, in my early twenties I began hiking, snowboarding, and rock climbing. Throughout all this I also grew an understanding of how the world interacts within me through what I take in and put out. For example, the food I eat and excrete can be turned into compost, which has nutrients that feed the plants who then go on to provide me with oxygen and more food. This rapport, along with many others, is no accident but rather a symbiotic relationship developed over millennia.

I have found no better way to connect with nature then to adventure in it, sometimes in exposing and scary ways. Each of the athletic hobbies that I pursue also connect me differently. Snowboarding is a fast rush, while climbing is slow, calculating, and far more exposing. Hiking does not possess the same thrills, but allows more intimacy with the most peaceful aspects of nature. The connection is further enhanced as I learn more about the native flora in my home.

A few weekends ago I took a three day backpacking trip. Passing into wilderness areas with nothing but my feet to move me and what was on my back to sustain me, I found a nature that is rarely seen. The first night was spent by a mountaintop lake between two high passes. The next day, after getting water from the lake, we continued over one of the passes. It was a beautiful day until an afternoon thunderstorm came and refused to leave. We arrived at the campsite that afternoon sopping wet with the rain still pouring down. The tent was erected as quickly as possible, and the remainder of the evening was spent huddled from the rain under that nylon barrier.

Experiencing the natural world is not always confortable. This lesson is clear in the above story, and is one I learn almost every time I adventure in nature. Another lesson I learn is that it is through vulnerability that a deeper connection is able to arise. To foster these types of experiences in one’s own life therefore spontaneously creates the kind of links to the natural world that our culture so desperately needs. Furthermore, allowing oneself the discomfort of being in the outdoors better prepares them for the uncomfortable task of mitigating climate change. So go out there, get your hands dirty, and get close to nature!

That One Corner!

By Pooja Mishra


slr5                                                  Source : gananoque.com

Finally, I got a chance to explore The Thousand Islands this Canada Day. The place is magical and is one of the best spots to appreciate Canada’s natural beauty. The moment you reach there you get the feeling that you are living in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Splendid, exciting, relaxing are some of the words that describe this place.

The moment we reached there, the beauty of the Lawrence River blew me away. The view in front of our cottage was scenic; we got a beautiful view of the river and it was in the heart of The Thousand Islands. Every morning we could see and feel the pleasure of that place. We couldn’t stop ourselves from capturing every detail in our camera and we clicked many pictures.

Thousand Islands is located on the Upper St Lawrence River near Kingston, Ontario and has over 1800 islands. The St. Lawrence River is one of the largest rivers in the world, which links great lakes into the Atlantic Ocean; Great Lakes hold 20% of fresh drinking water. The river holds a unique position as it straddles the border of the US and Canada and provide fresh drinking water to local towns of both the sides. It is a most loved place of nature lovers.


One evening I was soaking in the beauty of the place. I could see that many ducks were floating around, which made me walk closer to the river. But as soon as I headed towards the water; my eyes got stuck on one corner of the river. The water which had me mesmerized a few minutes back suddenly made me feel gross. One whole corner of the water by a ferry way, was full of waste material which was polluting the water. There were a couple of ducks that were stuck in the waste, trying frantically to get out of the mess.

Where St. Lawrence River is a great source of drinking water, it also faces many other pollution related problems as well, as it is the only way for ships to enter the Great Lakes and these ships brings along many problems. All other countless stress such as development, transport, over harvesting and pollution are also a threat to rivers and lakes.

All our demands for food, goods, material, energy put so much pressure on our planet. We are so busy in fulfilling our own needs and demands that sometime knowingly or may be unknowingly we do things which harm our nature and spoil its beauty and charm. And water is the heart of all these problems. We think its not our responsibility to clean everything; there are appointed officials for those jobs and they are doing their jobs. There are many organizations like Save the River and Water Aid Canada that have been working to save and protect the rivers and lakes. But they aren’t the sole custodians of preserving the nature. If we want our loved ones to have a healthy life, we need to share the responsibilities; we cannot leave everything to others. We need to do whatever we can do to protect and save our home for the future generation.

Everything in my trip was completely amazing. Our cottage, parks, everything was clean and well maintained but that one corner stuck somewhere in my mind. We all love clean and tidy places and keep our home the same way, but sometime we forget about our surroundings, which also need to be clean and pollution free.

There are many small steps that each one of us can take at home and outside and by making them a part of our daily routine we can make our planet a healthy place to live.

  • Always recycle the waste material; never dump wastes into a storm drain. Storm sewers go directly to rivers and lakes
  • Reduce uses of pesticide and fertilizers; If you live near lake or river, plant a buffer strip of plants along the water
  • Maintain the healthy ecosystem by planting in or around your home; make sure when you water your plant the water doesn’t go on the street or sidewalks
  • Don’t pour chemicals down the sink or toilet
  • Reduce air pollution by using less gasoline into the water. So when you buy a boat motor, choose a 4-cycle, rather than 2-cycle, engine. You will cause less pollution
  • In the winter, use less salt on your sidewalks and driveway. Chloride from road salt is building up in lakes and aquifers that receive runoff from highways
  • If you fish, consider putting away your lead sinkers and jigs and switching to non-toxic tackle. Loons, trumpeter swans and some other waterfowl are susceptible to contracting lead poisoning from tackle they pick up off lake bottoms
  • Don’t use the lake as a bathtub. Soaps and shampoos contain nutrients and pollutants that are harmful to the lake and organisms living in it; even when you wash your car park it on the grass instead of on the street or driveway





Tracking Your Food

By Hannah Gartner

Being a responsible citizen of this world means understanding where one sits in it. This involves thinking about and understanding the historical, political, socioeconomic, and ecological impact of one’s actions. One great space to begin unpacking this is food, something each of us must interact with every day.

produceSource: Indiana State Department of Health

Most of us are fully aware that the majority of our food travels a very long distance to our plate. Fresh produce has the easiest origins to pinpoint, as the little sticker says what country it comes from. Harder to figure out is where in that country as well as what farm. With this in mind I grab two granny smith apples from my pantry. They are both from the US, and one includes the word “Washington”, making me believe it comes from Washington State. The other has five stars arranged in a circle, which, after a small amount of research, leads me to believe it is from Oklahoma, since the state seal there is a pentagram. I try to find more information by looking through the websites of the grocery stores I bought these apples from (City Market and Safeway), but can’t find these types of details on individual products.

This small experiment only begins to to show how complicated figuring out where our food comes from is. With processed and packaged food the difficulty grows exponentially. One box of macaroni and cheese will contain near twenty ingredients, and although it may say from where it is distributed, each of those ingredients may come from a different place. To pick apart where food comes from is therefore a huge research task.

What one can do though is get to know the global trends. Around the world their are twelve centers of food production located in North America, Central America, South America, the Western edge of the Mediterranean, Ethiopia, the Arabian Peninsula, Siberia, Central Asia, India, Western Asia and Japan, Southeast Asia, and Australia. If something you are eating was not grown or produced locally, most likely it comes from one of these hubs. We can get to know the climate and practices in each of these regions and try to buy in ways that support those that are more sustainable and fruitful.

Seed-Map-Poster_Where-Did-our-Food-Come-FromSource: SeedMapper.org

Quite obviously the easiest way to know where your food comes from is to buy locally, or to even grow your own food. For those of us who live in higher latitudes though this isn’t a year round option, so it is important to learn how to navigate the grocery store. I hope this gets you on the right path, and here are a few more helpful links:

Happy eating!

Sounds Under the Stars featuring Checkmate with Freda Burke and Company

By Hannah Gartner

Please join us at the Hayloft, Gamiing Nature Center’s music and events venue, this Saturday for a performance by Checkmate with Freda Burke and Company. This mix of folk, pop, and classic rock begins at 7:30pm. Tickets are $10.00 at the door and a cash bar is provided.

Hayloft_Heading__ImagesThe Hayloft was transformed from a barn to a venue two years ago. Through August there will be Saturday music events as part of our Sounds Under the Stars series. We are also offering multiple two day workshops on a variety of subjects throughout the Summer. A full list of events can be found here.

The Hayloft is located at the following address:

1884 Pigeon Lake Road
between Lindsay and Bobcaygeon
at Gamiing Nature Centre

We hope to see you there this Saturday evening!

It’s time to change your habit!


By Pooja Mishra


Source : truehuenews.com

Recycling can easily make a big difference in protecting the environment. It helps reduce energy and other useful materials from being wasted. There are a lot of people out there who always keep in mind what things can or can’t be recycled and follow the instructions. But you may be surprised to know the fact that the things you have been throwing away in the blue bins, actually don’t belong there.

The Toronto city launched a campaign earlier this month as a reminder for people on what can and can’t go into recycling bin.  You will be surprised to know that those takeout coffee mugs, which we use on the go and have been throwing away in blue bins, thinking that they are recyclable, actually have to go in trash.

The takeout coffee mugs are coated with plastic and wax so they can’t go in recycle. There black lid also can’t go in blue bins, only non-plastic lids and cardboard cup sleeves can be recycled. According to the city, last year estimated 45,000 tonnes of garbage was mistakenly put into recycling bins.

Here is a small list of those things which we use on a daily basis and which can or can’t be recycled. We can help reduce global environmental damage by keeping this in mind and adding it to our daily routine.


  1. Food packaging (Unwaxed only)
  2. Boxboard (Shoes box, gift box, cereal box)
  3. Aluminium foil
  4. All colors glass bottles and jars
  5. All plastics number 1-7
  6. Clean grocery and retail plastic bags
  7. Beer and wine bottles
  8. Kitchen cookware (metal pots, pans, tins, and utensils)
  9. Brown paper bags
  10. Newspapers and magazines


  1. Paper coffee cups
  2. Pizza boxes (with food and wax)
  3. Wet paper
  4. Plastic bottle caps
  5. Plastic Bags
  6. Juice Boxes
  7. Styrofoam
  8. Paper napkins or towel
  9. Heavy died papers
  10. Broken glass




Gardening is a Summer Pass-time That Gives Back

by Hannah Gartner

Summer is fast approaching, which means time spent outside. There are tons of fun things to do in the outdoors, but if you are looking to give back to the Earth while soaking up the sunshine, gardening is the way to go. Additionally, more and more research is finding that gardening is also good for human health in a multitude of ways.

IMG_1926A few of the plants from my own container garden.

Planting a garden improves the look of your yard, increases air quality, and if strategically placed can help alleviate erosion. Gardens can even help increase the energy efficiency of one’s home by providing shade that regulates heat. It is important to note that there are practices that can be decidedly harmful. Try to use products without chemical additives, and pesticides and herbicides only when absolutely necessary. If you do have a problem with pests search for natural, homemade repellents, there are plenty out there! Another way is to look for plants which encourage the bugs that help protect your garden and discourage those that will harm it.

When it comes to human health, gardening has been found to provide many of the things missing from the typical sedentary lifestyle. As a type of moderate-intensity exercise, gardeners tend to have lower BMIs and be in better shape. Being outside everyday also increases one’s vitamin D intake, which can help alleviate autoimmune disorders as well as flus and colds. Research has also found that gardening can reduce depression, improve self esteem, and even lower one’s chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Helping plants to flourish is an incredibly satisfying experiences, and it seems science agrees.


My local community garden at the High Country Conservation Center in Frisco, CO.

These are just a smattering of the incredible benefits and joys that gardening can bring to one’s life. If you are interested, but don’t know where to start look to a local community garden or environmental group. Also, feel free to reach out. As a new gardener myself I understand how overwhelming it can be to get started. One of the most important things I’ve learned though is the experiential nature of this pass-time – to learn it you have to do it. So get out there and have a happy, productive Summer!

Happy Earth Day

By Pooja Mishra

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” —Jane Goodall













Source: www.50img.com

What better day can there be to kick off my April blog post than the Earth Day! A day that people celebrate each year on 22nd April through events, rallies, parades and show their support around the world. For me, Earth day is all about appreciating our nature and all the natural resources we have and also taking a pledge to not waste them by making small changes in my lifestyle. A small effort that I start off from my home.

Earth day was first celebrated on April 22nd 1970, in US. It was started by former US senator Gaylord Nelson after devastating oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in January and February of 1969. It was the largest oil spill in US waters at the time.

All these years we have been using all natural resources at a large scale without thinking of any future impacts. What will happen when we won’t have access to pure water and we have to travel miles and miles to get pure drinking water? And what will happen if we don’t have fresh air to breath, beautiful green trees, and plants? If we don’t start saving all the natural resources today then the day is not very far when our future generation have to struggle to get all these resources.

Image 3

Source: blog.savewater.com.au

In fact, these are the problems that we have already been facing for many years in our day to day life. There are so many people who don’t have access to all these natural resources. They have to struggle to get them. An average person generates 4.3 pounds of waste per day and that waste causes pollution, contributes to climate change and wastes natural resources.

Today, we are dependent on so many materialistic things to fulfil our basic needs. We use artificial things to complete our desire of natural resources. We use filter, water purifier to get pure and fresh water, why? Because our taps don’t have fresh water anymore. We don’t get fresh air under the sky. We have polluted it by various actions. We are so busy in making our life better through materialistic things that we always forget to appreciate what we already have. We all have artificial plants and flowers in our home. We have forgotten to grow them in our garden and keep them safe. We use plastics and throw them away to destroy the fertility of soil. It is high time we need to stop being selfish and try to do something for our environment.

image 4









Source: toolboxtalk.weebly.com

Some small efforts can make a big difference to the health of all living things and the planet that we all call home. Little changes in our lifestyle can do wonders. Although, we are making great progress everywhere but there is more each of us can do. So next time when you go to grocery shopping, remember to get reusable bags instead of plastic bags. Avoid buying something that you are not going to use later. Buy things that you can use again or consider donating to someone else rather than throwing them way. Look around in your communities and neighbours to find a garden that can take your food scrapes for compost. Find out the place where you can put them for recycling. Remember to turn off lights all day when sunlight could be used. Keep your computers, printers, and all electronic items off when you are not using them. There are so many such small things that we can avoid in our day to day life.

images 2






Source: earthday.ca

We always get all the things we want to fulfill our needs from the environment but somehow we don’t realize what our planet wants from us? We forget that we have limited resources and if we want to use them we have to save them. So let’s take a pledge today to make small changes in our lifestyle and start to make some difference starting from our homes. Appreciate our environment, love it, feel it and live with it.


Make a Pledge for Earth Day

By Hannah Gartner

With Earth Day tomorrow, now is a great time to make a pledge to improve the natural world. Small or large, there are many day to day changes that can be made which help reduce ones carbon footprint and increases the sustainability.

Pale Blue Dot copySource: National Geographic – This photo, titled “The Blue Marble”, was the first photo of Earth taken in its entirety. It was taken in 1972, two years after the first Earth Day.

Here are a few more simple pledges that can be made:

  • Stop eating cattle, pork, and sheep; take it a step further by cutting meat consumption to two or three times a week.
  • Start a compost pile, its easy and doesn’t take up that much space. Directions can be found here.
  • Commit to purging your life of disposable plastic.
  • Instead of buying new clothes go to the thrift shop or exchange clothes with your friends.
  • Volunteer for trash pickups, trail maintenance, or at your local garden.

Earth Day Vollunteers copySource: Politico

The more one gets to know nature the more they care for it, so the most fun pledge one can make is to spend more time exploring and learning about the Earth. Here are some ideas:

  • Go for a hike every month this year.
  • Plan the first annual family camping trip.
  • Go on science walks were you identify and catalogue the flora and fauna.
  • Take a trip to wide open spaces and spend the night identifying the stars.

Understanding is often the first step to change. Anything that fosters connection and caring for the natural world also helps it and can be a pledge.

800px-Crepuscular_rays_in_the_woods_of_Kasterlee,_BelgiumWhile we make these small changes in our lives, it is important to remember that systemic change is also needed. All over the world there are individuals, groups, and organizations working on the creating the changes that solve the large problems. Pay attention and support these activities whenever possible. One example is The Leap Manifesto, written by a wide array of activist groups, which tackles a huge portion of Canada’s environmental and social problems at once. Read it here and join the 39,000 who have signed it.

Gamiing Logo copy

This Saturday, April 23rd, The Gamiing Nature Center will be holding an event where everyone will be making there own pledge. These pledges will all be displayed on the wall as a symbol of our promise to help create a healthier Earth. More information on the event can be found here. Start thinking about your own pledge and we hope to see you on Saturday.

Forget Political Parties, Vote for the Natural World!

By Hannah Gartner

The vast number of countries in the modern world vote for who will head their government. Where I live in the United States we are currently undergoing a presidential election, without doubt the most important election that takes place here. This one is particularly important given that the candidates on the right are all anthropogenic climate change deniers. This has gotten me thinking a lot about how we can vote for the natural environment and help bring sound climate policy into politics.

Presidential Candidate Profiles 52Source: Conservative Review

The first step in determining the right candidate to vote for is to find their political platform for climate change. For the US presidential election this was relatively simple, since none of the Republican candidates have anything to say on this particular issue. As an environmentalist it is therefore clear to me that I can not vote for anyone in the Republican party. I believe that environmental issues are the most important issues we face, and feel that my vote must therefore be for someone who represents and believes the same.

The next step in voting for the natural world is to evaluate each platform. Hillary Clinton’s platform sets clear goals, but does not dive into details on how to accomplish these goals. It also completely ignores the international components of climate change. Bernie Sanders has a much more complete climate platform, although again the international components are lacking. Furthermore, it is important to look at each candidates history on these issues. Sanders has been talking about climate change for years, while Clinton has remained relatively silent.

3d rendering of a badge for the 2008 presidential election

The final step is to vote! Collecting this information and forming opinions means nothing if one does not act of them. So, wherever you live and whoever your candidates are, make sure you cast your vote for the natural world.

Amendment, 5/9/2016: Since writing this Clinton has released an environmental justice plan which can be found here.