Embracing nature: an engaging learning experience for new Canadians
By Natasha Ewing
The Learn to be in Nature event was held on June 25, 2022 in Prince George, B.C. Hosted by BC Parks and Recreation Sites and Trails BC in partnership with the Immigrant and Multicultural Service Society (IMSS), the event at West Lake Provincial Park was a unique opportunity for newcomers to Canada and Prince George to learn how to recreate safely outdoors.
Coming from diverse places like China, India, the Philippines, and Germany, many attendees are new to exploring British Columbia’s wild places. Most newcomers have never come face to face with a bear or know how to use bear spray. They might not know the essentials that should be carried while recreating outdoors or be aware of local and provincial organizations that can provide guidance and assistance.
The Learn to be in Nature event helped shine a light on these issues, filled knowledge gaps for newcomers, and allowed recreation enthusiasts to connect with like-minded organizations. With over 100 attendees, ten partnering organizations in attendance, and clear blue skies, the event was a phenomenal hit!
With swag bags in hand, participants learned how to use bear spray safely, stay safe near water, and setup a tent and camping gear. There were also opportunities to discuss local hiking trails, how to keep wildlife attractants stored properly, what essential items are needed in the outdoors, and what flora and fauna exist in the Prince George area. Many participants tried fishing (a couple fish were caught and released), while others experienced the thrill of paddling a canoe.
While this event was the first of its kind in Prince George, the partnerships formed will allow for future events within the IMSS community.
Overall, the Learn to be in Nature event is a showcase of how to build community resiliency, bridge gaps between diverse community groups within Prince George, and educate new park users on awareness of the outdoors – which will help in preventing injuries and fatalities.
An exciting legacy of this event is the creation of two hiking kits that will be available through the Prince George Public Library. Soon, community members will be able to borrow the hiking kits using their library cards. The kits include: a backpack, hiking poles, headlamps, a first aid kit, a compass, an emergency bivy sack, a local hiking guidebook, and a packing guide/trip planning reminder.
Special thanks to:
- Natasha Ewing, BC Parks (project lead)
- Chona Dela Cruz, IMSS (partner & project support)
- Karen Mohr, Recreation Sites & Trails (partner & project support)
- Gaganjot Lidhran, Ministry of Forests (project support)
- Partnering organizations for sharing their passion for and knowledge of nature – Learn to Fish, Caledonia Ramblers, Tourism PG, PG Naturalists, Northwest Invasive Plant Council, PG Search and Rescue, Northern Bear Awareness Society, PG Canoe and Kayak Club, Lifesaving Society BC & Yukon, Scouts Canada