Secondary School Outdoor EducationThe Riverwood Conservancy mandate is to provide quality educational programs at Riverwood. The Riverwood Conservancy has revised the secondary school program, Exploration Naturally, generously supported by The Ontario Trillium Foundation. We are now offering not only relevant field science experiences but new programs to help prepare students for careers in the out of doors.
Exploration Naturally is an environmental-based education program structured to bring the classroom outside. We want students to become sensitized to the world beyond their four-walled classrooms to build a respectful relationship with the outdoors.All programs mirror and complement the Ministry of Education secondary science and pathways curriculum guidelines.These outdoor environmental programs allow students to participate in hands-on scientific field studies, use field equipment, execute sampling techniques and collect, analyze, and interpret and communicate scientific data and to learn how such skills are relevant in today’s job market.
Gregory Hart, an energetic, passionate science teacher and naturalist, is the new instructor for the Exploration Naturally programs. Greg is an experienced and well-qualified instructor with a Master’s in Education, a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, and an Ontario Teaching Certificate. Greg has four years experience of teaching classroom biology and chemistryand a year of field research experience monitoring Oliver Ridley sea turtle populations in Costa Rica. He is delighted to have the opportunity to inspire, guide, and educate secondary school students about the wonderful world of nature.
Experiential Program DescriptionsAquatic Ecosystems
Students get introduced to methods and tools used to monitor aquatic ecosystems. Through biological and physical water analysis, students compare water quality (dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, conductivity, flow, etc.) from different natural water bodies-pond, creek and river-and a man-made water cleanser called a bioswale. In addition to observing water chemistry with probes, students learn to identify biological indicators, such as Mayflies and Damselflies, to assess water quality. To qualitatively and quantitatively gather data on human impact, students sample in two different ponds. One of the ponds is located next to a large parking lot and the other pond is nestled between woodland and the Credit River. Students compare data collected to witness differences in biotic and abiotic conditions of these ponds.
The consequence of climate change is at the forefront of a worldwide environmental movement. In this program students gather data by analyzing trees and monitoring temperature in altered and unaltered ecosystems. This allows students to quantitatively assess man's impact on different micro ecosystems throughout the property. By comparing data on air and soil temperature, students witness the affect of removing a forest canopy, clearing a field, and building a parking lot. To understand the relationship between climate change and tree growth, students investigate recent climate change events by studying tree rings. Tree rings tell us stories about relative temperatures, precipitation and growing seasonsand about extraordinary events, such as fires, that may have affected tree growth. Students measure trees to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered by our urban forest. This helps lead a discussion of our individual carbon footprint and the importance of forests.
Students conduct their own field study by visiting different ecosystems (forest, meadow, pond, creek, bioswale, or the Credit River). In each ecosystem, students gather data on abiotic environmental parameters (temperature, soil pH, soil moisture, light intensity, etc.) and the biodiversity of the flora and fauna. Through this hands-on study, students learn how these systems are sustained naturally, artificially, or modified through human involvement. While exploring the Riverwood, students witness different stages of ecological succession and the effects of invasive species on biodiversity. Students see first-hand how species diversity and biodiversity change from one habitat to another. These changes can be attributed to natural environmental limitations such as availability of food and shelter or the effects of direct and indirect human interference.In the fall, students have the opportunity to witness the annual salmon run and discuss how humans contributed to the collapse of the Credit River Atlantic Salmon population.
NEW - Field Sampling Skills and Careers
Students get an introduction to some of the skills necessary for working in the environmental field science. In this program students learn about different sampling methods and their limits including transect lines and quadrats. Students set up quadrats in different ecosystems to gather quantitative data on the abiotic and biotic factors and their interactions. Using soil corers, pH, moisture, and light probes, students learn about soil horizons and composition and it's affect on biodiversity. Students complete a forest survey using dichotomous keys, field guides, and appropriate terminology to learn basic tree identification and create maps to analyze plant population dispersion, relative abundance, and density.
DNA is the code of life shared by all living organisms. In this advanced laboratory program students extract DNA from different samples and compare their genomes using gel electrophoresis. During a nature walk focused on morphology classification, students gather samples from different kingdoms to extract DNA from. The afternoon session focuses on modern techniques and classification based on genetic comparison. Back in the lab, students perform a DNA extraction and learn about some of the chemicals properties of the DNA molecule. Using micropipettes students load their sample into an agar gel for fingerprinting and electrophoresis analysis. While the gels are running, students learn about genomes, chromosomes, fragment length, banding patterns, and the limits of electrophoresis. The gels are then analyzed to witness the molecular differences between different taxonomic kingdoms.
Students analyze micro-communities grown on discs in our wetland pond to gather data on population growth, succession, and carrying capacity. Once a plastic disc is placed in the pond, pioneer bacteria start to colonize it. Their plaque secretions provide a foundation for algae and other producers to grow on. After the algae base forms, consumers-including daphnia, euglena, paramecium, and others-begin to inhabit the discs. After a couple weeks, the growth on the discs reflects the biodiversity of the entire pond community. Different discs are placed in the pond for different amounts of time, to show the stages of succession and community growth. Students analyze the biodiversity of the discs using stereomicroscopes and field guides. Scales are used to generate data on community biomass over time. Graphing these results show population growth and carrying capacity. These learned concepts are then applied to other ecosystems as students visit different locations on the property to view succession on a larger scale.
Winter Bird Count
Winter should not scare you indoors but entice you outside; there is so much to learn and discover during this time of year.This program is based on and expands on the century-old Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count.Students learn how to use field guides and binoculars to recognize field marks and behavioral characteristics of different bird species. With the assistance of birding experts, students learn to identify birds and discover how morphological features of colour, form, and structure, habitat choice and behaviours distinguish species from one another and play a huge role in survival. Data on thousands of birds collected during the weeks leading up to Christmas contribute to an International Bird Inventory, allowing us to assess and monitor bird species population sizes, distributions, and ranges.
Offered in conjunction with Visual Arts Mississauga, art naturally workshops blend the creativity of studio art with the exhilaration of hands-on field science for a full-day of art and outdoor exploration. Art Naturally reflects the Ontario Ministry of Education Guidelines for secondary arts and science.
NEW - Riverwood Certificate Programs
The Riverwood Conservancy is developing two types of certificate programs, Introductory and Proficiency, for Specialized High Skills Major students. Upon completion of these courses, students receive a certificate that states the skills students learned and developed. Programs are currently being developed for Plant Identification and Tourism.
Introductory Certificates offer students a chance to experience an introduction to the skills, techniques, tools, and discourse of a particular field. Students visit Riverwood to experience the grounds through the eyes of a skilled professional and learn about the various skills needed in a particular job sector.
Proficiency Certificates provide students an opportunity to develop specialized skills in a particular area over several visits to Riverwood. More than just an introduction, these multiple visits create a hands-on living environment for students to hone their skills. During the program, students meet with practicing professionals in the sector to learn about their experiences and what career pathways are available today. At the end of the program students complete a project to successfully demonstrate their skill proficiency.
Book Your Class Now!
or if you have an unique program need and require customization,
please email or call Greg Hart at 905-279-8099.
Exploration Naturally Cancellation Policy:
1. When a program must be cancelled by TRC or the school (e.g., in the case of inclement weather*), TRC and the school will attempt to re-schedule. If re-scheduling is not possible and payment was received, a full refund will be issued. *Inclement weather includes, but is not limited to, rain, high wind, snow, flooding, and temperature extremes.
2. Due to the high demand for programs, a cancellation by the school without rescheduling must be confirmed and communicated no later than one (1) month prior to the scheduled program. A cancellation must be confirmed in advance by the Education Naturally Teacher and confirmation will be issued in writing, either by email or fax. The charge for cancellation is 50 percent of the booked program fee. If the cancellation is due to the occurrence of a traumatic event at the school, at the discretion of TRC the cancellation charge may be waived.