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You can connect young people with nature!

Posted on November 20, 2023

I hope you have had another beautiful year immersed in the wonders of nature!

Today, I am honoured to share a story with you that is very close to my heart – a story that you make possible, and one that continues to unfold alongside our changing environment.

I, like you, love nature. Every moment spent outdoors is absolutely integral and grounding for me. Just as trees stand as pillars of our ecosystem, so does the importance of nature in my life. Some of my fondest moments have been watching the seasons and leaves change, sitting around a bright and warm campfire while sharing memories with loved ones.

Children climb logs and trees and one jumps down

This summer, the scent of campfire smoke, normally a comforting symbol of warmth and community, took on a different feeling when smoke from widespread wildfires blew in – a bleak and pressing reminder of the reality of climate change.

Like me, you might feel anxious about the future of our environment – of losing the natural world we know and love. It’s this urgency that makes me want to emphasize the work we are doing at FortWhyte Alive, and ask for your contribution to help this important work continue – work that instills a love of nature in the next generation and gives me hope for the future.

Because you know as well as I do, we fight most strongly for what we love.

When it comes to enjoying nature, we all know we need to unplug to truly connect. This is especially true for children who are spending more time indoors in structured activities or in front of screens. For many kids, the opportunity to roam freely in nature may rarely even be an option, making it a much more precious gift.

But, in the forests of FortWhyte Alive, kids have a different experience. At Forest School, nature isn’t just a gift, but the lens through which children see and experience the world.

Forest School is an immersive educational approach that builds resilience and knowledge of the natural world through nature exploration. It is a space for learning that fosters a love of nature and instills a sense of environmental stewardship for the youngest children – by cultivating curiosity, resilience and a deep appreciation for the natural world.

At Forest School, the youngest kids are free to play and roam in nature, through all seasons and all weather, transforming them and the way they see and learn to interact with the earth.

Volunteer Sharon stands in fall forest

Volunteer Sharon Walker understands firsthand that kids who visit FortWhyte Alive are developing a connection with nature that runs deep.

Sharon is a former elementary school educator who loved bringing her classes of youth to FortWhyte. In many cases, this was the first forest experience for apartment-dwelling students from her class. Sharon loved watching the joy and curiosity on her students’ faces while they were exploring in the forest, watching the bison and listening to the birds.

Through lived experience, Sharon knows that it is difficult for classroom teachers to teach about nature indoors, sharing that “even walking around schoolyards and neighbourhoods is nothing compared to being at FortWhyte and immersed in the forest.”

Which is why, when she retired, she wanted to help create that same experience for others by volunteering at FortWhyte Forest School.

Recently, Sharon shared a story about how she felt joyful, peaceful and hopeful after participating in a ‘gathering circle’ at Forest School, a twice-daily exercise which encourages the kids to sit together to reflect on what they are connected with and what gives them joy.

“The kids always respond with something that is about their connection with nature: the sound of the wind, sunshine on their faces, shade from the trees. I see the kids gaining an understanding of trees and the land.”

Circle of logs in forest with Forest School children sitting on them

“The kids are always very gratitude-driven – showing extreme gratitude that demonstrates their respect for the land, and connection with the earth and all that it provides. It’s a feeling of hope when you hear 3- to 5-year-olds giving thanks for all that nature provides and you know that they understand that at an emotional level. They are talking about the land and the experiences they’ve had in nature, not toys or other objects.

Sharon’s stories make me feel more hopeful in the face of the climate crisis. And, as we confront the realities of climate change, I know it is more crucial than ever to equip the next generation with these core values that will 
help our vulnerable world.

This is why your gift is so important and will make the biggest difference.

Your generous donation today will make sure more kids have access to the incredible environmental education programs that are at the heart of FortWhyte Alive.

Programs like Forest School that instill in children a deep appreciation for the natural world – creating foundational memories and instilling core values that are centred around the Seven Grandfather Teachings of Humility, Bravery, Honesty, Wisdom, Truth, Respect and Love.

Your support means that more hands-on experiences will be available to more children at lower costs. You will create experiences where kids learn not just about the environment but also about themselves – developing resilience, adaptability and a profound sense of love of the natural world.

And because we fight most strongly for what we love, you will be equipping the next generation of environmental champions with the skills and passion to change the world.

Together, we can ensure that the love for nature cultivated today becomes the driving force behind a sustainable and thriving planet for generations to come.

Volunteer Sharon sits on log in forest with children

Today, I am asking you to please give generously to plant the seeds of early outdoor experiences that will grow into a lifelong commitment to environmental stewardship.

Your gift will expand our reach, ensuring that more children have the opportunity to connect with nature and develop the values that will shape a resilient tomorrow.

Thank you for being a part of our FortWhyte Alive community, for believing in the power of nature, and for directly helping us inspire a love of nature in the children who will carry the torch of environmental stewardship.

Your tax-deductible donation today helps shape the future. Every dollar brings us one step closer to providing more children with transformative experiences at FortWhyte.


With heartfelt gratitude and unwavering hope,

Liz Wilson
President & CEO, FortWhyte Alive

PS: November 28th is Giving Tuesday! Your gift made on or before that date will be generously matched by Vickar Automotive Group up to a combined total of $10,000. Double your gift by donating today!

PPS: Nothing we do would be possible without you. Thank you!