Today’s post comes from Olivia Pomajba, a summer student at Rondeau Provincial Park.
“I have no terrors in these hands
I am nothing but a ship to unknown lands
There is nothing to fear more than fear itself
Of what, the memory of love or wealth.
You will take my hand, make no mistake.
A new life begins when you wake up.”
– Graham Jones, “Fear of the Unknown”
Stepping out of your comfort zone may seem scary, but that’s where growth happens. The Ontario Parks Discovery Program helps translate fear of the unknown into empowerment and exploration.
There are no wrong answers
As interpreters in the Pinery and Rondeau Provincial Parks School Program, we host school groups in the park and travel to local schools to deliver programming.
This not only brings nature into the classroom, but reaffirms the value of exploration in the school curriculum.
In schools, the Discovery model flips the classroom to focus on student curiosity. This model allows students to explore on their own using questions that have no wrong answers.
Below is an example of a traditional question mode: “Based on its talons, what could a bald eagle eat?”
The lesson actually stops until a student offers a correct answer, such as “fish.” This black and white discussion does not necessarily lend itself to the complexity of nature or valuing creativity.
Instead, the Discovery model asks, “what do the bald eagle’s talons remind you of?”
There is no wrong answer.
The bald eagle’s talons remind some students of the talons of their family cat, a sharp steak knife, or even a tool used by the dentist.
We discussed the characteristics of the bald eagle in the context of the connections students made with the bird. In this way, we are creating real-life connections with nature.
Students are challenged to reflect on themselves, make connections, and grapple with big questions. Their life experiences and ideas have value and help us better understand nature and how people relate to it.
This inquiry-based learning differs greatly from simply conveying facts to students. It allows them to discover on their own terms and ask their own questions. The Discovery model gives students the confidence to explore nature.
Exploring the unknown
The mysteries of our ecosystems remain vast and deep. According to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, we share our planet with no less than 13 million living species, of which only 1.75 million have been named and recorded.
Ontario’s provincial parks are ecological hotspots filled with tiny invertebrates and colorful fungi. There is so much to discover yet!
This idea that our ecosystems are full of mysterious and unknown life is overwhelming and exciting. Tools like iNaturalist They help students engage in citizen science and their sightings contribute to important research.
Ontario parks are for everyone
We are not required to know certain facts or be able to identify certain birds or plants. With respect for lived experiences and with reverence for the diversity of life in our parks, the Discovery Program allows us to make meaningful connections with nature.
The Discovery Pogram allows students to lead their own exploration with interpreters who help facilitate this discovery. We are challenged to step out of our comfort zone and embrace the unknown.
There is so much to explore and there is no limit to what we can discover.