Mon, 24 Sep 2018
Tags: Education

Going wild with GO Grants: Over $83,000 awarded to get BC students learning outside

Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation has awarded over $83,000 in GO Grants to help create outdoor learning opportunities for elementary and high school students across BC.

“We received an unprecedented number of applications for our Fall grant intake, and we are delighted that we were able to fund so many great field trips and outdoor learning projects,” says HCTF Education Programs Manager Kerrie Mortin. “These grants will enable over 6200 students to get learning outdoors.”

Thanks to an exciting new collaboration with BC Parks, HCTF was able to approve a much higher number of proposals compared to previous Fall intakes. BC Parks provided over $30,000 in funding towards field trips and outdoor learning opportunities taking place in provincial parks. This contribution is just one component of a multi-faceted partnership between BC Parks and Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, which will also include new resources and experiential learning opportunities that will be rolled out in the months to come.

This round of grants will be directed towards field trips scheduled between September 15 and March 31. There will be another intake in the spring for field trips planned for April 1-June 30, 2019. Interested future applicants can visit the HCTF Education website to learn about future opportunities, and to access a wide range of resources for outdoor learning.


Tue, 19 Jun 2018
Tags: Education

BC Parks Contributes $30K from Licence Plate Sales to HCTF GO Grants Program

Environment Minister George Heyman announces BC Parks will contribute $30,000 to HCTF's GO Grants program.

VICTORIA – To get more students out of the classroom and into the great outdoors, BC Parks is contributing $30,000 from the sales of specialty licence plates to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation’s (HCTF) GO Grants Program.

“By supporting the GO Grants Program, we are giving youth a chance to experience nature and gain a unique learning experience in some of the most beautiful provincial parks B.C. has to offer,” said George Heyman, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “We hope a new generation of young people will form a lifelong attachment to our province’s diverse and rich natural environment.”

Minister Heyman announces GO Grants funding

The GO Grants Program provides funding for school field trips to provincial parks, and other natural areas, so students can learn about B.C.’s fish and wildlife habitats, as well as biodiversity, while fostering an appreciation for the environment. The trips give youth a chance to spend time outdoors and participate in hands-on learning activities, such as beach seining, releasing salmon fry, nature scavenger hunts, and plant and animal identification.

Last year, licence-plate funding supported outdoor learning in provincial parks for more than 700 students. Up to 2,500 students are anticipated to go on field trips this year, as demand for the program is at an all-time high.

“We want every student in B.C. to have the opportunity to experience first-hand the incredible diversity of animals and plants that are part of their communities,” said HCTF education committee member Ken Ashley. “BC Parks’ contribution will enable an additional 2,100 students to participate this year. Connecting kids to nature helps build a conservation ethic that is critical to protecting B.C.’s biodiversity for future generations.”

Dr. Ken Ashley speaks on behalf of HCTF at GO Grants at Goldstream Provincial Park

The B.C. government is reinvesting all net proceeds from the sale and ongoing renewals of BC Parks licence plates back into provincial parks, to ensure action is taken to protect the environment and achieve conservation goals.

Students from Ecole Margaret Jenkins Elementary School on a GO Grant field trip to Goldstream Provincial Park.

Wed, 4 Apr 2018
Tags: Education

GO Grants to Get Thousands of Students Outdoors This Spring

HCTF School GO Grants in the snow

There may still be snow in parts of BC, but spring GO Grant field trips are just around the corner! We’ve just awarded $75,000 in GO grants to 216 teachers in 34 different school districts to get more than 5500 BC students learning outdoors this spring.

This photo was submitted to us by Amy Woodland Elementary School in Cranbrook. The school used an HCTF GO Grant for its “Wilderness Wednesdays” initiative. Each Wednesday, the school hired a bus to take several classes to Jim Smith Provincial Park and Idlewild Park to participate in outdoor, place-based learning experiences. The main goal of “Wilderness Wednesdays” was to provide children with regular access to natural spaces for child-directed, inquiry-based learning. Kindergarten teacher Leah Draper reports that the opportunities for learning were endless. “We were fortunate to have guest educators teach us about bats in the fall, and Dave Quinn from Wildsight facilitated the program, Nature Through the Seasons. All of the learning and free-play activities were rooted in the features of and changes in the local forest environment, ” says Draper.

Students learned about local plants and animals and how they adapt to changing seasons. They built shelters, had weekly campfire stories, went snowshoeing, ice-fishing, created art from natural elements and played cooperative games. Outdoor education students from the University of Victoria also participated in the field trips to apply their learning with the classes.

“This was a transformative experience for our school,” says Draper. “Because of our school’s central location in Cranbrook, we don’t have many natural spaces within a reasonable walking distance. These field trips provided children with learning experiences that they will remember, and reports from children, parents and staff have been positive and full of appreciation.?”

Teachers have reported increased levels of student engagement and improved student relationships as a result of collaborative problem solving during field trip activities. Students were also allowed time to play and explore independently, providing welcome opportunities for using their imagination. Draper observed Kindergarten students becoming families of wolves and creating and maintaining an icy “otter” slide, as well as constructing numerous “homes” for other animals. The wilderness experience also led students to build resilience when faced with obstacles, including inclement weather.

This was the school’s second year of Wilderness Wednesdays and teacher participation has grown immensely. The school hopes to continue getting their students outdoors and plans to apply to HCTF Education’s Wild Schools program to build upon their students’ ecological literacy.

Find out more about HCTF’s GO Grant program at

Thu, 3 Nov 2016
Tags: Education

A Summer with the Birds – Student Shares Her Experiences Working with the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust


As a follow-up to our video series on the HCTF Summer Internship Program, we received the following article from the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust (DFWT), written by their 2016 intern, Jennifer Sibbald. Jennifer is the third BCIT student to complete a summer internship with DFWT under this program.

Each morning, from May through July, I was up with the sunrise. It wasn’t that I had trouble sleeping or because I’m naturally an early-riser: I was there for the birds.

In spring, as migrating songbirds travel toward their food-rich breeding grounds, many stop in the productive agricultural lands of Delta, BC. This stop-over results in a flurry of morning activity, known by many as the ‘dawn chorus’. This musical cacophony is the sound of many male birds singing to attract a mate, each with their own unique song. In the birding world, these moments are the perfect time to survey birds, as one can identify them by sight as well as sound.


Though waking at dawn may not be for everyone, it was the perfect way for me to spend a summer. As a student in the Ecological Restoration Program atBritish Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), I jumped at the offer of an internship with Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust (DF&WT). With generous funding from Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF), the City of Surrey, BCIT Rivers Institute, and DF&WT, an internship was created to study the richness (number of species), abundance (number of individuals) and diversity of songbirds using hedgerows planted by DF&WT in Delta, B.C.

In Europe, it is well studied and understood that hedgerows provide many ecological and economic benefits to agricultural landscapes. Hedgerows provide shade for livestock, help reduce soil erosion, give homes to beneficial pollinating insects, and provide necessary breeding habitat for many species of songbirds. DF&WT has long recognized the importance of hedgerow habitats, and has sought to create more of these areas through their ‘ Hedgerow Stewardship Program’. In recent years, DF&WT is initiating some of the first hedgerow studies that I am aware of in British Columbia, including the songbird study I was given the opportunity to be a part of.

Jennifer_S_selfie.jpgIn the spring of 2015, BCIT Ecological Restoration student Arthur Kujawiak began the pilot study focusing on the abundance and diversity of songbirds using DF&WT hedgerows. In 2016, I continued the study to establish a multi-year dataset of the birds using these hedgerows. Additionally, I was empowered by DF&WT to expand the study and ask a few questions of my own. I focused my questioning on whether differences in plant composition of the hedgerows impacted bird communities.

Having been recently immersed in school and ecological theory, I knew that increases in the diversity of plant structure (e.g., different heights) and composition (e.g., different species) typically lead to the increased biodiversity of animals living in an ecosystem. I hypothesized that in hedgerows where plant diversity is greater, we would see a greater diversity of songbirds. From careful study design, data collection, and data summarizing, we found this to be true of DF&WT hedgerows. These findings support the management actions of DF&WT, which strive to plant a diversity of native trees and shrubs along their hedgerows.

After many sunrises, countless hours of data entry, and time spent just listening to the birds, I was able to provide some insight into how songbirds use hedgerows in Delta, BC. As a student, this was a fantastic opportunity ask questions of my own, independently conduct fieldwork, and learn to identify over fifty species of birds by sight and sound! Thanks to the support from DF&WT, HCTF, City of Surrey, and the BCIT Rivers Institute, I have gained invaluable experience for my future as a biologist, and had a summer I will never forget.

A big thank you to Jennifer for sharing her experience with the internship program!

Wed, 31 Aug 2016
Tags: Education

Transformed School Grounds Enhance Environmental Learning


Nestled in the heart of the Fraser Valley lies the small rural community of Dewdney. Three years ago, declining enrollment threatened the future of the community’s only school, but today, Dewdney Elementary has become a shining example of how re-creating outdoor space can strengthen student learning and bring together a community. Led by the vision of their Principal, Mrs. McLeod, and the implementation of the Community Outdoor Recreation and Environmental Education (CORE) program, this small school has been hugely successful in incorporating environmental education, stewardship and restoration into everyday learning.


The school transformed a soggy field of grass into a naturalized area full of opportunities for play, growth and learning. Students participated in the design and construction of various features, including a “mud kitchen” and garden boxes for growing food. They also planted and cared for fruit trees, edible berry bushes and other native plants. A wooden tree-cookie pathway leads the young learners through the landscape, past apple trees and strawberry plantings into a free play area with loose natural materials for making whatever the students can imagine come to life. Not without modern conveniences, the site also boasts rainwater harvesting, biofiltration swales, and a power-generating windmill for a covered shelter appropriately named “the Den”.



Teachers at Dewdney have used the concepts from HCTF’s Wild Schools and the Get Outdoors resources to augment the student’s use of the learning area during free time, as well as more deeply infusing it into the learning process while doing inquiry based work and while planting and maintaining the planter boxes. Using a GO Grant, classes were able to create and nurture food gardens including a three-sisters planting concept of beans, corn and squash . In the fall, they will harvest, prepare and preserve their garden’s bounty with the help of community partners.

Experiences in the outdoor space integrate curriculum concepts of numeracy, language, science and physical education. Students learn from their successes and also failures; they’ve witnessed some of their gardening work quickly undone by nighttime critters, and gained an understanding of the interactions between plants and wildlife in the process. Seeds that fail to sprout prompt questions as to why, providing an opportunity for inquiry-based learning. These experiences are only the beginning; Dewdney’s efforts to integrate ecology and stewardship into student learning recently won them $25,000 of technology from Staples to help further their environmental and educational programs. These include restoring and expanding a wetland are covered in invasive reed canary plants and the addition of a large greenhouse.

While replicating the success of Dewdney Elementary’s schoolyard transformation may seem daunting to those starting with a blank schoolyard canvas, Dewdney’s administration encourages interested schools to start small and build as you grow. “Our project and any successes that come along with it, are the result of teachers, parents, community members, businesses working together to make a difference in their corner of the world,” says Sue McLeod, the school’s principal. “It is not the size of the project that is important, but the willingness to jump in and get their hands dirty. That is the most fun of all!”


Thanks to WildBC facilitator Lisa Fox for sharing this story with us! For more information on HCTF Education’s projects and programs, visit

UPDATE: Read about how Dewdney Elementary School is making their school yard even greener through the HCTF-funded Wetlands Institute.


Wed, 1 Jun 2016
Tags: Education

Schools Grow Connection with Nature

Wild School Kids Learning Outdoors.jpg

The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) has announced it will provide over $62,000 for 25 BC schools selected to participate in its Wild School program. The 3-year program provides teachers and students of K-8 schools with free resources, training and support for environmental learning, outdoor field experiences and connections to conservation work in their communities.

Three schools within the Cariboo-Chilcotin School District#27 have been accepted into the Wild School program: Marie Sharpe Elementary, Horsefly Elementary and 100 Mile Elementary.

Calvin Dubray, Principal at Marie Sharpe Elementary, says the school is looking forward to beginning the program next fall, especially since it will coincide with the start of their new Nature Kindergarten program.

“Our staff and students are currently engaged in place-based education and we are seeing deeper, richer learning happening,” says Dubray. “We are excited about the additional opportunities and experiences the Wild School program will offer to enhance our outdoor learning initiatives.”

The Wild School program evolved from the successful Science in Action program that began in 2006. Science in Action was a single year program focused on providing K-8 teachers and schools with resources to support hands-on, active learning through science. In 2012, Science in Action began the transition to the Wild School program, a multi-year model that incorporates healthy and sustainable initiatives toward connecting schools to nature.

HCTF Education Manager Kerrie Mortin says the Wild School program evolved from their experiences delivering Science in Action, and is supported by current research about the effectiveness of whole-school program models. “One of the key elements of the Wild School program is professional development. The shift from a one-day workshop model to providing multiple years of professional development opportunities – including workshops, mentoring, networking and support- has been shown to be more effective in helping teachers build capacity and transform their teaching and learning, leading to better outcomes for students.”

Marie Mullen, Principal of Fulford Elementary School in SD#64, says the Wild School program has provided their teachers with the resources, activities and know-how to get their students learning outside. “[HCTF’s] generous support of field trips and eco-mentoring has enhanced our place-based learning initiatives and helped our students connect with- and become stewards of- their local environment.”

Ashley Frketich, a teacher at Ecole Margaret Jenkins School in SD61, agrees that the program was instrumental in making the transition to outdoor learning. “After attending one of the workshops, I realized I could take a lot of little steps to move my classroom outside,” says Frketich. “I was very surprised at how easy it was. As a result, my class has spent a lot more time outdoors than ever before and we are all loving it.”

Over the past nine years, the Wild Schools and Science in Action programs have helped 3500 BC teachers in 267 schools provide hands-on environmental learning experiences to over 72,000 students.

About the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF)

Since 1981, the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation has provided more than $160 Million in project funding to more than 2,000 conservation, restoration, enhancement, and educational projects across BC.

HCTF believes that investing in education is key to the future of conservation. The Wild School program is just one of HCTF’s Education program areas; they also offer GO Grants to cover transportation and programming costs for getting students learning outdoors and Connect to Conservation, a forum to connect the education community with on-the-ground conservation work.


Click on photos for full-resolution images.


Students from Monteray Middle School learn to identify a variety of intertidal animals on a GO grant funded field trip. Principal Ken Andrews says the school has greatly benefitted from the Wild School program.




For more information contact:


Kerrie Mortin

Manager, HCTF Education

Phone: 250-940-9787


107- 19 Dallas Road

Victoria BC V8V 5A6