Fri, 15 Apr 2016
Tags: Education

BC Kids Granted Opportunities for Outdoor Learning

Children from the North Okanagan Shuswap School District learning outdoors with help from an HCTF Education GO Grant.


Victoria –The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) has announced it will provide over $66,000 for BC schools to get their students out of the classroom and into the outdoors. Their aptly-named GO (Get Outdoor) Grants will be used to pay for bus transportation, project materials and program fees to provide hands-on outdoor learning experiences for more than 4500 students.

The North Okanagan Shuswap School District was one of many school districts across the province who will be benefitting from GO Grants this spring. In total, 5 of the District’s schools plus an additional 10 classes through a district-wide grant will receive just over $7700 for outdoor, environmental education field trips, including some of the following:

  • Armstrong Elementary’ s grade 4 and 5 classes will visit Kingfisher Interpretive Centre to learn about salmon and salmon habitat
  • Salmon Arm West Elementary’ s grade 2/3 and 4/5 classes will be getting out on the Shuswap River to explore life along the river and conduct local indigenous plantings
  • Shuswap Middle School class of grade 6/7 will be going to Norfolk Wild Regional Park to investigate and measure biodiversity in the park
  • Hillcrest Elementary grade 2/3 classes will take a trip Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park to examine plants and animals in the ecosystem

Now in its fourth year, demand for HCTF’s GO Grant program has steadily increased, and requests for grants now exceed the amount of funding available. HCTF received over 150 applications in its February intake, 68 of which were approved. HCTF Education Manager Kerrie Mortin hopes the amount of funding available can be increased in future years.

“Costs such as bussing, program or leader fees, and outdoor field equipment are huge barriers for many classes here in BC,” says Mortin. “GO Grants are relatively small amounts of money that can make a huge difference to whether or not a class can experience outdoor learning. HCTF believes this is one of our most important investments for our future, and so do educators:”

Teachers who have used the grants to take their classrooms on outdoor learning field experiences report that this type of learning has huge benefits.

“Fieldtrips are a fantastic learning experience for children,” says Nuala Powers, a kindergarten teacher at Sacred Heart School in Prince George. “There’s only so much you can show them or read about in the classroom. But when they go out in the environment and really experience it, it’s fantastic for them.”

Kim Fulton, a retired teacher and administrator, agrees. “Through these grants, children learn about the diverse ecosystems in BC,” says Fulton. “They develop a stewardship ethic to look after these systems and all the critters and plants in them for future generations.”

Since the program’s inception in 2012, GO Grants have allowed more than 25,500 BC students to get outdoors for a total investment of $333,067. The average cost per student is $13.

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 the key to the future of conservation is investing in education. GO Grants is just one of HCTF’s Education program areas which also includes WildBC, a long-running and successful program that has been providing and supporting educators with environmental education programs and resources for over 25 years.

For more information, contact:

Kerrie Mortin 250-940-9787

Manager, Education Programs

Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation

Fri, 4 Dec 2015
Tags: Education

Building the Next Generation of Fish & Wildlife Biologists


British Columbia is currently undergoing a period of rapid environmental change: the province’s accelerated rate of industrial expansion combined with climate change has increased the need for experienced professionals capable of addressing growing environmental challenges. The imminent retirement of a significant percentage of BC’s current conservation experts has upped the urgency in cultivating the next generation of fish and wildlife professionals. Training for these hands-on careers requires moving beyond the classroom and out into the field. As part of HCTF’s commitment to building a better future for BC’s fish, wildlife and habitat, we’ve helped fund paid summer internships for BCIT students in the Ecological Restoration Program. These internships provide invaluable real-world experience for students as they work alongside professional biologists from HCTF partner organizations. In the following video series, you’ll hear from students and their mentors about the benefits of this program for building conservation capacity in BC.

After you’ve watched the videos, scroll down for a more in-depth conversation with the students about their experiences with the internship program, and some advice for young people considering a career in conservation.

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Delta Farmland Project

Part 3: Grauer Wetland Project

Meet the Interns

Emma de Groot

Emma is a second year student in the Ecological Restoration program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Emma grew up in Vancouver, and prior to attending BCIT, completed an undergraduate degree in Biology and Environment, Sustainability and Society at Dalhousie University.

Emma_DG.jpgWhat inspired you to study fish/wildlife/habitat biology?

Spending time outdoors was what inspired me to study biology and ultimately restoration ecology. Every summer while I was growing up my family and I would road trip from Vancouver to our wilderness cabin on Lac La Ronge in Northern Saskatchewan. We would spend weeks there fishing, exploring the wilderness and swimming in the freezing cold lake. The experiences I had there away from the city, connecting with nature were instrumental in my desire to pursue environmental studies as a career.

Why did you apply for this internship program?

There are lots of hands on learning opportunities at BCIT – the Ecological Restoration program takes us out of the classroom to participate in the work that we will hopefully be one day doing ourselves. The summer internship program provided an opportunity for extended work experience that helped me prepare for our future in the industry. I jumped at the chance to add to the knowledge I have already gained from the program.

What projects did you work on as part of this internship?

My internship was with Ducks Unlimited Canada. I have been working with them on a diversity of different wetland projects in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island. One of these was the long term monitoring of restoration work completed on the Grauer lands in Richmond. The area was recently restored back into a salt marsh by excavating new ponds, building up islands and planting marsh vegetation. I helped conduct vegetation surveys in the Grauer salt marsh to evaluate the success of the plantings and determine what other vegetation was growing. These consisted of looking at 1 m2 quadrat areas and identifying all the vegetation within the square and its percent cover. The information derived from these surveys can be used to determine whether the restoration was successful and if there is a need to do more work on the site. We also were tracking the movement of large wood through the salt marsh. This entailed going on a scavenger hunt for marked logs and recording their GPS coordinates. While some wood is necessary for adding complexity to the site, the entire area was being choked out by all the wood that was present. The restoration entailed pilling up the wood onto islands, which would allow marsh vegetation to grow in the opened up areas. The wood that was left is being tracked in order to evaluate natural movements of large wood across the salt marsh.

I had never spent much time in salt marshes prior to working on this project. It was interesting to learn how to identify the different vegetation and learn about their unique adaptations of dealing with the brackish environment.

What was it like working with Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC)?

Working with the DUC staff in the Vancouver office has been a very enjoyable experience. They all have a passion for the work that they are doing that I found inspirational.

Why do you think the work that DUC is doing is important?

Wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems on earth and are critical habitat for a great diversity of species. Protecting wetlands is incredibly important not only to preserve the species that depend on them but to ensure they continue to perform those ecosystem services that we take for granted. DUC is at the forefront of protecting wetlands across Canada so that everyone can benefit, not just ducks!

What has been your favourite part of the internship?

My favourite part of the internship has been getting the opportunity to work outside and learn about wetlands. DUC manages many different wetland types in the Lower mainland each one offering unique habitat characteristics. Understanding and meeting the variety of needs of these wetlands made each day on the job interesting and challenging.

Do you think the internship has been a valuable experience? Do you think hands-on experiences (like the work you’re doing as part of this internship) are an important component of learning?

The internship with DUC has been a very valuable experience. When studying the environment there is only so much that can be learned in the classroom, it takes getting outside and getting your hands dirty. The internship taught me lots of valuable information and skills as well as reinforced knowledge I had already gained in school. I think it is important for any one studying this field to get the opportunity to gain real job experience out of school.

What would you tell middle and high school students that are interested in a career in this field? Did you know this is what you wanted to do when you were in high school?

The best advice I can give to anyone interested in this field is to get outside and experience nature! A connection to the environment is not something you can learn in a classroom, it takes going out and learning about and loving the natural world around you.

Do you feel hopeful that your generation is going to be able to work towards solutions for some of the conservation challenges we’re facing?

I am optimistic that my generation will be able to work towards solutions for the conservation challenges we are facing. There is so much more awareness and willingness to take action in the younger generation concerning issues surrounding the environment. It is going to take ingenuity and hard work but I am confident we can do it!




Arthur Kujawiak

Art is a second-year student in the Ecological Restoration Degree Program at BCIT. Art grew up in Abbotsford, BC, and previously completed a Diploma in ‘Fish, Wildlife, and Recreation’. Art spent the summer working with the Delta Farmlands and Wildlife Trust, a long-time HCTF grant recipient working to preserve farmland and wildlife habitat on the lower Fraser River delta through co-operative land stewardship with local farmers.

Art_K_intern_2.jpgWhat inspired you to study fish/wildlife/habitat biology?

I’ve always been intrigued by wildlife. As a kid, my friends and I spent a lot of time exploring trails in the undeveloped forests behind our houses and all over Abbotsford. My parents used to take me and my brother hiking, camping and adventuring across BC. I think that combination of experiences helped to give me this love of nature, an appreciation of its value, and an urge to protect it.

Why did you apply for this internship program?

It’s a great opportunity – there are certainly other summer jobs available for students, but very few allow you to gain hands-on experience and such a broad spectrum of applicable skills.

What projects did you work on as part of this internship?

I worked with the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust studying the diversity and abundance of bird species in the Trust’s farmland hedgerows. This study looks at what effect hedgerow age and other characteristics have on bird usage of those hedgerows. I’d walk the hedgerows, listening carefully for any bird activity within 50 meters. We’d identify the species, number of individuals, their behaviour, and whether they were in the hedgerow or likely just associated with adjacent habitat.

What did this experience add to your classroom learning?

One thing I’ve found is that you can study pre-recorded bird songs until you’re familiar with dozens or even hundreds of them, only to find that when you’re finally out in the field, the birds make variations of those sounds and have different ‘dialects’ from the ones you learned – it’s a bit of a steep learning curve!

What was it like working with Christine (of the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust) on this project?

Christine is great to work with. I really couldn’t imagine someone who’s better suited for her position. She’s always cheerful, friendly, and very knowledgeable. You can tell she’s really passionate about the work she does and she brings a lot of her own agricultural experience to the table.

Why do you think the work that the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust is doing is important?

In addition to providing habitat for birds migrating on an important international Flyway, the habitats that they are creating and preserving benefit other human needs as well. Hedgerows benefit farm fields by providing habitat for beneficial insects such as pollinators. Wetlands act like kidneys by filtering out pollutants to give us naturally purified drinking water. So as the human population grows, the work that conservation organizations do becomes even more important.

What has been your favourite part of the internship?

I get to be outdoors, with fresh air and morning sunrises. Work is almost literally a walk in the park to listen to the birds sing.

Do you think the internship was a valuable experience? Do you think hands-on experiences (like the work you’re doing as part of this internship) are an important component of learning?

Absolutely. You can spend weeks in a classroom learning theory, but having hands-on experience really helps bring it all together and locks in that skill set.

Did you know this is what you wanted to do when you were in high school?

Honestly, this never occurred to me as an option until maybe a decade after I graduated high school. I feel that it’s not uncommon to be unsure of what you want to do with your life when you’re a teenager.

What would you tell middle and high school students that do think they might be interested in a career in this field?

Well, if you’re still in high school then take some biology courses to keep that door open. I also recommend going for the Fish and Wildlife course at BCIT as it gives you a lot of the basic skills and knowledge that we need and use, it satisfies the prerequisites for getting into the Ecological Restoration Program, and it’s a lot of fun!

Where do you hope your career takes you?

You know that saying that goes ‘if you find a job you enjoy, you’ll never work another day in your life’? Well, if I could combine that with a career that has me doing and learning new things and exploring new territory – that would be ideal.

Do you feel hopeful that your generation is going to be able to work towards solutions for some of the conservation challenges we’re facing?

I’m optimistic – We have a lot of bright minds in our younger generations who see the value in protecting the environment. And with newer, green technologies, the right leadership, increased public awareness, and the implementation of the right environmental initiatives, I feel that we can do a lot of good.

Many thanks to Art Kujawiak, Emma de Groot, Dr. Ken Ashley, Christine Terpsma, Eric Palm, and Dan Buffet for participating in the filming of these videos, and thanks to Rod Hsu of Fishing with Rod for putting them together. The summer internship program was co-funded by HCTF and a grant from Rudy North to the BCIT Rivers Institute, with partnership funding from the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Squamish Watershed Society, Fraser Valley Conservancy, and the BC Conservation Foundation.


Fri, 4 Sep 2015
Tags: Education

GOing Back to School


It’s almost time for BC kids to head back to the classroom. While the end of summer typically means a shift towards more indoor activities, HCTF GO Grants can help teachers get their students outdoors and learning about nature. K-12 teachers can apply for grants of up to $600 per class (max of $3500 a school) to pay for bus transportation, project materials or leader/programs fees for hands-on, outdoor field trips with a conservation or environmental theme. Full application criteria and grant requirements are available at Questions? Contact our education department by email or phoning 250 940 9786 (toll free 1 800 387 9853).




Tue, 26 Nov 2013
Tags: Education

Okanagan-Shuswap Schools Use HCTF Funding to Connect Students with the Outdoors


Thanks to Alice Hucul of the North Okanagan-Shuswap District for sending us the following story about how local schools are planning to use their CEAF and PCAF grants to support hands-on environmental learning.


This fall, four schools in the North Okanagan-Shuswap District were successful in earning grants from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation. M.V. Beattie, South Broadview, Carlin Elementary Middle School and Eagle River Secondary School had their proposals approved for funding. M.V. Beattie’s program received a Public Conservation Assistance Fund (PCAF) grant while the other three received funding from the Conservation Education Assistance Fund (CEAF). The grants are being used by the schools for different activities but have one common theme – all will help expand the classroom to include outdoor learning for students!

North_Okanagan_Shuswap_HCTF_Grant_2.JPGAt M.V. Beattie, the $3,200 PCAF grant is helping change a wet “problem area” on the school grounds into a replica of Shuswap River, and will become a place where students can study wetlands. Retired principal and outdoor activist Kim Fulton (aka Dr. Fish) has been helping M.V. Beattie with this project. He explains wetlands are one of the most threatened, undervalued, and misunderstood ecosystems in B.C. By re-creating a wetland system on the playground, classes will study its evolution, and come to know its beauty and ecological benefits. Hopefully, present and future decision makers will be better equipped to make informed choices for fish and wildlife. Principal Denise Brown says that, in future, a solar powered waterfall will be added into the existing wetland. “The movement of the water is important to the environment and the aesthetic value will be appreciated by our students and the community in general. Often the children spend their break times in the wetland exploring and watching nature.”
A public trail will be constructed to go right past the wetland, allowing the community at large to enjoy and also develop a better understanding and appreciation of the function and beauty of wetlands.

South Broadview Elementary received a $3,500 CEAF grant, which will be used to fund experiential outdoor learning opportunities taking place throughout the school year. Thanks to the grant, the 85 students in Grades 4 & 5 will be travelling to some 25 different sites to enhance their classroom learning. In September, students visited Gorge Creek, where they photo documented the ecosystem and plant and animal interactions, witnessing decomposers in action. They also had to analyze simple food chains and create a presentation. Later in the year, students will visit the Salmon Arm landfill, the sewage treatment plant and the water treatment plant. To learn about the strategies municipalities are implementing to reduce their ecological footprints, students will observe first-hand what is happening to waste and water in their community. The teachers have tied this grant in with the school district’s action research initiative, which gives schools some seed money to do a project which helps develop student engagement in learning. With the addition of the CEAF grant, the school was able to add in some further outdoor learning opportunities including cross country skiing, snowshoeing, biking and a trip to the Kingfisher Interpretive Centre.

Carmen Dawkins’ Grade 4-5 Class at Carlin Elementary Middle School received a $486 CEAF grant which will be used to connect students with local habitats. Dawkins explains her school is starting to explore the local and larger watershed, using the Shuswap Watershed Project as a guide. “We will give students two different field experiences to increase their knowledge of this watershed: one at White Lake, which includes following its outlet to Shuswap Lake, and the other at Adams River, which also flows in to Shuswap Lake but at a different location,” Dawkins says. “First-hand experience under the leadership of knowledgeable adults is a way to build community and further connect our students with local habitats. We will use local professionals who work in the field of biology and individuals who are developing expertise through participation in various local ecology projects or groups. We will travel to two different farm locations to illustrate to students how White Lake flows in to the Shuswap. We will visit the Adams River to expand students’ understanding of how broad the Shuswap Watershed is.”
“Learning about the turtles and the Turtle Study project at White Lake serves to educate students and parents that as a community we can all contribute to the health of our watershed. Having similar field experiences will build community within our student body,” she adds.

Eagle River Secondary in Sicamous received a $1,500 CEAF Grant to offset the transportation costs for various field trip opportunities. Principal Scott Anderson says the grant will allow the school to provide an even richer outdoor experience for students.
“We support a great deal of field trips to support and enhance learning activities in the ‘real world’, but this grant has been critical in increasing the number of trips, the complexity of activities, and the number of students we’re able to accommodate. Without the grant we would not be able to support to nearly this degree.”

“To date we have taken kids to pick vegetables from farms that were then donated to local food banks, participated in shoreline cleanups, science field trips to identify local plants and their traditional First Nations uses, the Encountering Wildlife program at the Kamloops Wildlife Park, local walking trail maintenance and cleanup, GPS mapping/ex-ploring/geocaching of local wilderness areas.”

All those involved would like to thank the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and anglers, hunters, trappers and guides who contribute to the Trust, for making a significant financial contribution to support these projects.

Thu, 31 Oct 2013
Tags: Education

South Park School Shares Their Story

South Park CEAF Grant Video

We received this wonderful video from South Park Family School in Victoria, BC, showing us how they used their HCTF Education GO grant (formerly CEAF grants) to get students outdoors and experiencing nature.


Thanks to teacher Kathy Inglis for putting this piece together: it looks like the students had a fantastic time, even in the rain!

Interested in applying for a GO grant for your school? Visit for more details!



Thu, 20 Jun 2013

Experiential Learning at Hakai


Students in the remote village of Hagensborg, BC rarely get to connect with learning opportunities outside the Bella Coola Valley. But thanks to the fundraising efforts of teacher Sara Germain, fifteen lucky students from Sir Alexander Mackenzie School got the chance of a lifetime to travel to the Hakai Beach Institute for a week of hands-on, ecosystem-based learning in a spectacular coastal environment. Here’s Sara story about how an HCTF CEAF grant helped her students connect with the outdoors and bring classroom concepts to life:

“Students in BC’s Science 10 focus a quarter of their curriculum on the sustainability of life’s ecosystems, so this week-long field trip was designed to solidify many of the concepts learned in the classroom relating to ecology, evolution, food webs, humans impact on ecosystems, climate change and more. I’ve found that when studying for their Provincial Exam, students who’ve been on this trip are much more successful at applying these concepts because they can connect questions with ideas they ‘lived and applied’ out in the field at Hakai.

Upon arrival, we did an intertidal species scavenger hunt to introduce students to the new ecosystem they would be exploring for the week. The next day, we hiked up to the lookout, which took us from an intertidal zone, through different forest ecosystems, all the way up to a subalpine bog. Students took pictures of different plant species along the way to start their week-long “Digital Species Project”; where students photographed and identified 50 different species (intertidal, plant, bird, mammal species) and used them to create PowerPoint presentations complete with Latin names, common names, location of organism, and more. Students spent about an hour a day in the intertidal zone working on this project, as well as time in the classroom compiling their data.

Another outdoor project involved collecting different species of seaweed and pressing them. When specimens were dry, students framed their “works of art” and identified the types of seaweed they had pressed. We did a “caboose activity” during one of our hikes, where I would teach the student hiking behind me about a plant or aspect of forest ecology, and then that student would teach the concept to everyone hiking behind them as they passed by their “station”. Students really owned and learned their ‘stations’ well! Later in the week, we registered for “The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup” and did a longer day hike along a number of pocket beaches; we carried out garbage and documented it with the organization upon our return. This same day, the students also made their own trail maps, including an interesting geological/biological feature along each section of the trail. They turned out beautifully!

During our week at Hakai, students had the opportunity to learn from and work with a number of professional scientists. One gave an outdoor presentation and tour of the sustainable infrastructure featured at Hakai Institute (water, power generation, waste treatment, etc). An archaeologist talked to the students about his work, then took us out in boats to observe an actual dig site. A biologist took us on an intertidal zone beach walk, showing us many new species we’d missed on our own. Another scientist showed the kids how to collect samples of plankton, and later took them back to the lab to identify the different species under the microscope. All of these encounters allowed the students many informal opportunities to chat about their careers and how they got to where they are today.

I have found that taking my students out to Hakai has been one of the most beneficial and rewarding teaching experiences of my career. It’s given me the opportunity to develop many hands-on outdoor activities for students that give them real-life, applied knowledge in the Prescribed Learning Outcomes outlined by the province. Beyond that, I have found this trip invigorates students’ passion for science, develops their skills as budding scientists, exposes them to what a career in science can offer at its best, and lets them learn by osmosis while having so much fun in a unique place on Earth that normally they would never have the opportunity to be exposed to.”

In 2011 HCTF created the Conservation Education Assistance Fund (CEAF) to help educators connect students with the outdoors. Read more about the CEAF granting program, including how to apply >>