Tag Archives: nature

A fine pairing!

Photo Credit: Luis Vidal, Flikr Creative Commons

Cheese and Wine, Hollyhock and Cortes, Oysters and Hot Sauce, Bread and Jam are all examples of great pairings in life.  This summer Hollyhock brings together two talented and experienced individuals, in a unique pairing, to offer an in-depth study of the stunning nature of Cortes Island.


Suzanne Northcott is a returning presenter, world renowned for her interdisciplinary art work.  Suzanne is based in British Columbia, and knows well the bounty of nature available to aspiring artists on the Pacific shores.

Hollyhock naturalist and presenter, Bill Ophoff.
Hollyhock naturalist and presenter, Bill Ophoff.

Bill Ophoff is Hollyhock’s resident naturalist of over 15 years, and is known to all visiting guests of Hollyhock as the Oyster Barbeque Chef.  If you visit Hollyhock during the Oyster season, you will see Bill and his band of volunteer oyster-shuckers hard at work preparing the oysters for the guests.  As well, Bill leads programs and weekly nature hikes around the island, to teach us about our surroundings in BC’s West Coast eco-system.

Over 5 days, you can build your own Naturalist Notebook, filled with information and watercolours, inspired by the teachings of Bill and Suzanne.  Join them for The Naturalist’s Notebook from August 29 to September 3.

Scientifically Proven Reasons To Go Outside

Hollyhock has always believed in the power and effectiveness of learning in the exquisite setting of the natural world.

Here’s 11 reasons you should go outside!

by Lauren F Friedman and Kevin Loria
via Business Insider

11 Scientifically Proven Reasons You Should Go Outside

With spring finally here after a long and brutal winter, we highly recommend spending some time outside.

Nature offers one of the most reliable boosts to your mental and physical well-being. Here are just a few potential benefits:

1. Improved short-term memory
In one study, University of Michigan students were given a brief memory test, then divided into two groups.

One group took a walk around an arboretum, and the other half took a walk down a city street. When the participants returned and did the test again, those who had walked among trees did almost 20% percent better than the first time. The ones who had taken in city sights instead did not consistently improve.

Another similar study on depressed individuals also found that walks in nature boosted working memory much more than walks in urban environments.

Source: Psychological Science, 2008; Journal of Affective Disorders, 2013 Continue reading Scientifically Proven Reasons To Go Outside

Place-Based Imaginative and Ecological Education in Maple Ridge, BC


Since August 2008, the project has been working to bring together the community of Maple Ridge to establish a public K-7 school and learning centre. The theory and practice of the project is supported by Place-Based, Imaginative and Ecological Education. Learning and teaching will be experiential, in context, and through activities that engage the mind, body, and heart. The project is based in principles of inquiry and inclusion.

Teaching and learning will involve reconnecting the natural and human worlds. The project is a partnership between several community groups, School District 42 Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows, and Simon Fraser University. The university-based research is funded through an environmental Community-University Research Alliance grant (eCURA) from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

maple-ridge-nature-educationWe seek to grow relationships and nurture practices of learning and teaching that embody the following principles and values:

  • Place and Community
  • Nature, Ecology and Sustainability
  • Inquiry and Possibility
  • Interdependence and Flourishing
  • Imagination and Integration

Place and Community

We cultivate learning in, about, with and from local places. This includes spending extensive time immersed in the outdoors, dialoguing with a diversity of people connected to these places, and exploring the meaning of places in the context of the broader community, its past and future. Our hope is to nurture and develop an inclusive educational community deeply rooted in place. Related readings.

Nature, Ecology and Sustainability

We cultivate learning in natural settings, where we listen for what the more than human world has to teach us. Through the cycle of the seasons and the years, knowledge of ecosystems will be built gradually so that diversity, complexity and sustainability become part of our understanding of the world. How to live sustainability in this place is an ongoing question in everything we do. Related readings

Inquiry and Possibility

We cultivate a spirit of inquiry involving everyone – the natural world, students, parents, community members, teachers and researchers alike. We are committed to exploring multiple pathways of learning and teaching that engage many different ways of knowing and forms of knowledge. Meaningful, authentic, locally-inspired individual, group and community projects play an important part in this process. Related readings

Interdependence and Flourishing

We cultivate an appreciation of people both as unique individuals and as members of nested families, communities, and places.  We seek to understand the complex ways in which we can help each other flourish, and how to build relationships and systems that contribute to such flourishing. We aim to foster respect, care, and health in everything we do. Related readings

Imagination and Integration

We cultivate imagination in teaching and learning, as a key to deeper understanding, creativity, and responsiveness to place and community. We look for ways to integrate learning across the curriculum, bridging language arts, sciences, histories, geographies, mathematics, physical and social skills. We develop educational practices and materials that nurture a sense of wholeness in learning and teaching. Related readings

School Questionsenvironmentalschool@sd42.ca
Research Questionsecolearn@sfu.ca

Tips for a Sustainable Holiday Gathering

By Heather Balch

1) Buy local. Support local companies by purchasing local food, wine, and beer. Not only are you supporting your local community but local food usually has a smaller environmental impact.

2) Use ingredients that are in-season. If you are planning on cooking for your party, make sure to use ingredients that are in-season. They will be fresher, easier to get, and they are better for the environment.

3) Use Mother Nature to decorate. Collect sticks at your local park to put in vases or paint and use them as center pieces. You can also use pinecones, acorns, leaves and potted plants as beautiful decorations.

4) Reduce waste. Send out electronic invites instead of paper ones. Use reusable cloth napkins to reduce the amount of waste your party creates. Properly dispose of the waste your party does create by composting the food and recycling beverage containers.

5) Encourage Secret Santa. Instead of buying presents for everyone on your list, encourage your party to participate in Secret Santa and limit individuals to only bring one gift each.

6) Make a donation. Ask your guests to make a donation instead of purchasing a hostess gift or let them choose a charity they’d like you to make a donation to instead of offering party favours.

And be in the moment. Enjoy each and every moment of the holidays with your loved ones; be grateful for all you have; and cultivate generosity.

Happy Holidays!


Cure Kids of Nature Deficit Disorder

by Sarah Donaldson

As a child, I grew up on Vancouver Island surrounded by parks and beaches. Many weekends comprised of camping, fishing and hiking. Summers were filled with hoping around the Gulf Islands and swimming in hidden spots near Gold River. I thought this was the ‘norm’ and soaked in every moment away from a TV screen or computer. I believe those years before wifi and my cellphone (that rarely is turned off), were the greatest and most freeing. Those years built who I was and how I cherish the outdoors today. It is a treat to go away for the weekend without my laptop, Hollyhock was the perfect escape without it. Every child should be offered the chance to tune into nature, just like the students in Maple Ridge (read below).

by David Suzuki via The Huffington Post

The kids are back in school. But for 60 students in Maple Ridge, B.C., school doesn’t mean a stuffy classroom. According to an article in the Vancouver Sun, the children, ranging in age from four to 12, will get their lessons “in parks, at picnic tables, alongside streams, under tarps and tents, in gardens, libraries, restaurants, fitness centres and even municipal council chambers.”

The Environmental School Project, as it is known, came about in part because a vice principal and a teacher librarian who was also studying at Simon Fraser University noticed something rather obvious: kids like getting out for field trips but don’t always enjoy the classroom experience. Clayton Maitland, a school administrator who was then vice principal of a local school, and Jodi MacQuarrie, the teacher librarian, had been discussing ways to take schooling out of its rigid confines. They took their ideas to educational researchers at SFU and to the public.

People liked what the two had to say. SFU researchers got a grant from the federal government and the school was started. A council that includes the researchers, community educators, teachers, and students and their families will work with the program.

According to the school’s website, the school will be based on “place and community, nature, ecology and sustainability, inquiry and possibility, interdependence and flourishing, imagination and integration.” To that end, students will work on projects that include removing invasive species from natural areas and building duck shelters — but they’ll also follow the B.C. school curriculum.

It’s a really great idea that I hope many more school districts will adopt. As a child, much of my education and inspiration came from outings to go camping and fishing with my dad in B.C. and later on from exploring swamps near our home in London, Ontario. My parents were never upset when I returned home soaking wet and covered in mud, carrying jars of insects and salamander eggs. That led me to an interest in science and then studies and a career in genetics, focusing on the fruit fly.

I’m happy that my children have also grown up with a love for the natural world, inspired by time spent at the beach or in the mountains, and that their children are learning the same lessons. After all, people will not care as much about, or work to protect, something with which they feel no connection. My fellow bug-lover Edward O. Wilson, an American biologist who specializes in ants, popularized the term biophilia, meaning “love of nature,” with his 1984 book of the same name.

As he explains in the book, “To explore and affiliate with life is a deep and complicated process in mental development. To an extent still undervalued in philosophy and religion, our existence depends on this propensity, our spirit is woven from it, hope rises on its currents.”

Of course, children also learn better and retain more of what they’ve learned when they enjoy the process. But too many kids today spend most of their time indoors, captivated by computers, video games, and TV. Author Richard Louv coined the term nature deficit disorder to describe this phenomenon. He notes that only six per cent of nine- to 13-year-old children in the U.S. play outside in a typical week, and in San Diego, “90 per cent of inner-city kids do not know how to swim” and “34 per cent have never been to the beach.”

If we want to protect the natural world on which our survival depends, we must learn that we are a part of it, and we must encourage our children to appreciate its wonders.

Studies have also shown that spending time in nature helps with recall and memory, problem-solving, and creativity. Children (and adults) who spend more time outside are also physically healthier. And, as one of the Maple Ridge students, nine-year-old Gavin Mulcahy, told the Vancouver Sun: “We won’t be locked inside a tiny box for six or seven hours a day.”

These young students and the people who had the foresight to get the school running have lessons for all of us. Let’s hope people heed them.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation editorial and communications specialist Ian Hanington.