An initiative based in Peterborough and the Kawarthas is rolling out the framework to create connections between kids and the environment.
Pathway to Stewardship & Kinship follows a series of steps and activities that focus on different stages of development — think Canada’s Food Guide, but for getting your daily serving of the outdoors.
“This is kind of a place to start,” said Cathy Dueck, project coordinator. “Starting right from birth, to the teen years, it identifies simple but really powerful activities that kids can really benefit from.”
Those activities are called landmarks. You can check out what the landmarks are here. Each stage is meant to instill different skills and nature-based principles that translate into overall personal wellbeing and environmental wellbeing.
“All of the research that we have done really re-enforces the hope that this will help children as they grow up with a sense of self-esteem, a sense of empathy, leadership skills and to foster a world moving into the future that is diverse and flourishing,” said Dueck.
Now, with support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation the team is working toward a wider, community rollout.
Enter The Landmark Challenge, a call for families to log at least one landmark activity during the week of Family Day. Snap a photo of your crew completing a step, register and report your activity here, or tag it on social media using the hashtag #LandmarkChallenge for a chance to win daily draw prizes.
The idea for a common effort to promote outdoor connection in youth started back in 2014 by Camp Kawartha Executive Director Jacob Rodenburg. He said that community support is key to getting kids excited and invested in the environment.
“Over time, it has been shown that if kids learn to love a particular place they will do anything to protect it,” said Rodenburg. “So your place isn’t just your backyard, but it is the Kawarthas and all of Ontario and we need to protect it for future generations.”
He said not only does that mindset help to foster those long-term environmental connections, but it also can boost your immunity and mood.
“Just seeing the colour green boosts our serotonin levels, which is our feel-good hormone,” said Rodenburg. “Studies have also shown that if kids are playing outdoors just for an hour and go back in the classroom or back inside they focus better, they study better,” he said.
The goal is to apply this method on a larger scale in schools and, down the line, to have 10,000 families logging landmark activities.
While Family Day is serving as the kickoff for this project, officials said it is an ongoing effort in fostering healthy kids with strong skills in stewardship and leadership.
“So the more we can get kids physically active in the outdoors the healthier it is for them and, I would argue, the healthier it is for the planet,” said Rodenburg.