In our “Behind the Scenes” series, Discovery Program staff from across the province share a behind-the-scenes look at their favorite shows and projects. Today’s post comes from Carlin Thompson, Assistant Discovery Leader at Sandbanks Provincial Park.
As summer turns to fall in Sandbanks Provincial Park, many campgrounds close for the season. Park Store and Discovery Center hours are reduced and snow fencing is in place along our popular beaches in preparation for strong winter winds.
This year, as camp visitation slowed and summer staff returned to school, I was preparing to take on a new challenge for the Discovery Program.
After decades of educating and entertaining campers with summer programs, the Sandbanks Discovery Program is excited to refocus our efforts this fall to become a more active community partner with our local schools.
A change in understanding
I have personally witnessed the comings and goings of fifteen summer seasons as an employee of one of Ontario’s busiest parks.
Having grown up opposite Sandbanks, my family and I took many sunset walks along the beach and had picnics at the site of the old Lakeshore Lodge. I went to the local high school (and skipped classes on sunny June afternoons to spend time with my classmates at the beach!).
However, it wasn’t until I started working at the park and attended a program that I truly understood the value and complexity of what was in my own backyard.
That’s why I’m so excited to engage local kids by connecting with teachers to expand the summer programs we’ve always offered.
As an Ontario certified teacher and local substitute teacher, it has been amazing to reach out to my colleagues and invite them to get out of the classroom and go to the beach!
I have been fortunate to connect with enthusiastic educators who have become collaborators in creating practical programs with strong curricular links.
Restoring the dunes (with a little extra help!)
One of my favorite projects this fall has been including school groups in dune restoration, which Discovery staff conducts periodically.
During the busy summer season, in their rush to explore the beach, visitors often carve new trails through the dunes, trampling the ground cover that effectively holds the sand in place. As a result, erosion by wind, rain and eventually snow can alter the formation of dunes.
One of my fall responsibilities is to identify those areas most vulnerable to erosion.
To do that, I go to the beach!
When I say “going to the beach,” I want you to imagine steel-toed boots and binoculars instead of flip-flops, bathing suits, and a good book. But it doesn’t suck! Exploring the dunes on a beautiful fall day, enjoying the bright sun with the Lake Ontario breeze kissing your skin and birdsong filling your ears – not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
Once the damage was assessed, we turned to restoration by planting Marram Grass, a dune-specific plant that is uniquely adapted to survive and thrive in an ever-changing sand environment.
It’s always a satisfying job, but this year it was made even more satisfying by the school children who joined my efforts.
Inspiring the next generation
After weeks of communicating with teachers, writing lesson plans, and preparing the site, I found myself, Marram Grass in hand, anxiously awaiting the arrival of a big yellow school bus from my alma mater.
I’ve always felt a responsibility to reach out to young people for the environment, but on that cold fall morning, I realized something new: Quite possibly the biggest impact I can make is to inspire area kids to connect with the park. what a love, to become good managers and maybe even future employees of Sandbanks.
Connect with other parks offering Discovery school programs
Discovery Rangers are available in numerous locations across the province to deliver school programs in our parks, in your classroom or schoolyard, and via video conferencing.
Designed to enrich and expand Ontario’s K-12 science and social studies curricula, our school programs provide first-hand experiences that promote inquiry, problem solving, active learning and responsible citizenship by connecting students directly with the natural and cultural heritage of Ontario.
To request information about Discovery School programs available in your community, please email us.