Tag Archives: education

Halton Children’s Water Festival celebrates ten years of water education

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“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action,” Herbert Spencer (English philosopher).

Written by: Norm Miller, Communications Advisor

The Halton Children’s Water Festival (HCWF) was launched in 2006 with the intent to teach elementary school children about water, and also inspire them to be stewards of this most precious resource. The water festival does this by teaching children about water through activities which engage them in a fun and interactive way.

This past week (September 30 to October 2) the HCWF celebrated its tenth year with 2,700 students in grades 2 to 5 participating over three days at Kelso Conservation Area in Milton. (The festival is normally four days however organizers had to cancel a day due to weather). The HCWF has seen more than 34,500 elementary students attend since its launch.

The majority of the activities at the festival are led by high school students. This experience provides the high school students with a leadership opportunity, presentation experience, and teaches them about water at the same time. The HCWF features 60 activity centres which incorporate four main water-related themes:

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Water Conservation and Protection
  • Water Health and Safety
  • Water and Society

One of the neat aspects of running a festival for ten years is that you witness the beginning of the legacy. Students who attended as elementary students return a few years later as high school students to lead activities. The students who attended the first Water Festival in 2006 as grade 5 students are now in university and may even be studying something related to the environment. What will be seen is the positive impact created in our community by the HCWF by teaching these children about water and instilling in them the desire to take action to conserve and protect it.

About the Halton Children’s Water Festival

The HCWF was first held in 2006 and was launched with the assistance of a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The Festival is co-hosted by Conservation Halton and Halton Region in partnership with, the Halton District School Board, the Halton Catholic District School Board, the City of Burlington, the Town of Halton Hills, and the Town of Oakville. Conservation Halton Chairman John Vice and Regional Chair Gary Carr serve as the Festival’s honorary co-chairs.

The Festival is sustainable thanks to in-kind and monetary support from organizations in the Halton community. Thanks to the following community businesses for their support of the HCWF:

Thank you also to Aird & Berlis LLP, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, City of Burlington, Town of Halton Hills, Me to We, Nalco Canada, R & M Construction, R. V. Anderson Associated Limited, Terrapure, Thomson, Rogers.

For more information on Festival supporters visit the HCWF supporter page, hcwf.ca/supporters/list-of-supporters


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Stream of Dreams: Only Rain Down the Drain

Stream of Dreams


 By Sasha Benevides, Festival Coordinator; and, Norm Miller, Communications Advisor 

If you’ve been anywhere in Halton, or even in Hamilton and Mississauga, you’ve probably seen them. Beautifully painted, wooden fish, ‘swimming’ together, attached to a fence beside a school. Sometimes you can find them beside a park, but most often they’re beside a school.

These wooden fish murals are a reminder to those who painted them (predominantly children) of the fish and other creatures who live in the creeks and streams in their community, and how important it is for us to protect their home.

This message is what Stream of Dreams is mainly about, protecting our creeks, lakes, rivers and streams for the fish and other creatures who live there and don’t have a voice. It is a reminder that what goes down the storm drain on your street will end up in those bodies of water. So for example, if you live in Burlington and dump a quart of motor oil down the storm drain, rather than disposing it at the proper waste management site for appropriate recycling, chances are it’s going to Lake Ontario!

Stream of Dreams was launched by Conservation Halton in 2006, when it became the first program outside British Columbia, where it was created. Conservation Halton has delivered Stream of Dreams to more than 70 schools and groups reaching 28,000 (28768 to be exact) students and people in the community since launching in 2006.

Each elementary school that participates is required to pay $5 a student and do a lot of work before Conservation Halton’s Stream Team arrives in the school. They prepare and cut their fish so every student and teacher can paint their dream fish. The schools receive a template to ensure they properly cut their salmon, pike and sunfish and more.

The appeal of the program to schools is Conservation Halton’s Stream Team customizes their stream talk so the students learn about the creek or stream in their community. In addition, they ensure the talk is geared to the students they’re presenting to so the message relates to students from kindergarten to grade 8. No matter the age, the students are interested and engaged!

Once their stream talk is complete the students go into the painting room to complete their one of a kind dreamfish which will go on the fence to remind them and everyone in the school community of the important message they just heard.

This year Conservation Halton is celebrating the tenth year of bringing Stream of Dreams to its watershed and will be visiting ten schools starting in  April 2015. If you’re interested in bringing Stream of Dreams to your school, please contact Conservation Halton. We are always looking for donations of plywood and volunteers to cut fish as well. You can call us at 905-336-1158 or send an e-mail to our Stream of Dreams Coordinator.

About Stream of Dreams

The Stream of DreamsTM Program brings awareness to communities about their local watersheds through environmental education and stunning public artwork. The goal of the program is to improve water quality, while at the same time creating a community art legacy as a reminder of our environmental responsibilities.

The program originated in Burnaby, British Columbia where it is administered by the Stream of Dreams Murals Society. Conservation Halton is proud to be the first organization to officially bring the program to Ontario and to our watershed! There are Stream Teams in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.


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“What can an 8 year old see in 50 minutes?” Knee High Explorations of Winter Wonders

Bird Tracks

Bird Tracks

By: Sam Ansaldi, Rick Collins and Alison Forde

What can an 8 year old see in 50 minutes? This was the question we, as outdoor educators at Mountsberg Conservation Area, were posed with last week. Heavy snowfall was set to begin mid-afternoon and our visiting school needed to depart ahead of the storm. An hour and a half education program quickly needed to be adapted to the new timeline. We needed to engage these students with the winter environment, and do it quickly!

Squirrel Pinecone Cache

Squirrel Pinecone Cache

We started by turning them into squirrels. This fun and very active game had the kids hiding pine cones in the forest, while staying wary of the potential predators lurking in the woods. The little animals (aka kids) must hibernate for a short time before venturing back out to seek their cones for breakfast. Any cones left undiscovered could grow into trees, feeding further generations of squirrels.

Squirrel Tracks

Squirrel Tracks

While pretending to be squirrels, many other animal tracks were discovered by the children and provided a segue to the next winter adventure. Who else lives in these woods? Imaginations were abound with bears, wolves, cheetahs and hyenas. Although these animals were not in fact present, the kid’s imaginations and interest were piqued.

Raccoon Track. Front Paw

Raccoon Track. Front Paw

We went searching for evidence of animals. Some of our most exciting finds were various sets of animal tracks including coyote, rabbit, squirrel, mouse, and even a few birds.

Coyote Tracks

Coyote Tracks

The highlight, however, was discovering a pile of coyote scat!

Coyote Scat

Coyote Scat

The children were intrigued to find out that the difference between coyote and dog scat is the presence of seeds and fur, which are unlikely to be found in domestic dog droppings.

Along with the easily discernable animal tracks in the snow the kids came across some rather mysterious lines meandering through the pristine landscape. Sometimes the trail would begin and end abruptly under the grass and leaves beneath the cold covering of winter. What animal is small enough to create these trails, we wondered? The kids thought about which animals would be awake or hibernating through the winter, and the consensus led them to one answer, something small and fast; a mouse.

Collapsed Mouse Tunnels

Collapsed Mouse Tunnels

With the abundance of mouse trails scattered throughout the area the only logical thing to do next was to show the kids what being a mouse was really like; and off to the human mouse tunnel we went.  Strewn with browse and created out of hay, the children nimbly slid head first into the enclosed corridor only to expertly navigate their way through to the other side in the dark.  One by one they emerged with the surprised look of how warm and secure a tunnel like this could be, leading to a spirited discussion of how something so small can survive in the frigid conditions of Ontario’s winter.

Vole Tunnel. Near the bird feeder.

Vole Tunnel. Near the bird feeder.

As much as we wanted to stay at the bird feeders with the students accurately calling out the names of the species they spotted, it was unfortunately time to leave.  With snow gently falling on our faces, the gaggle made its way back to the Discovery Center where their adventure had originally began.   In the end it turned out that the answer to our question “What can an 8 year old see in 50 minutes?” was a whole awful lot, especially when their imaginations were allowed to come alive outdoors.

We hope you enjoy the photos of our winter trail-side discoveries, why not come out to the parks and make some discoveries of your own?

 Click here to learn more about Mountsberg’s Animals, Growth and Changes program, or any of the outdoor educations opportunities at Halton Parks.

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Birds, Butterflies and Bees! Spring is underway!

Brenda VR, natural heritage ecologist at Conservation Halton, takes us along another one of her strolls. What will we come across this time?

Last week I remembered to clean out the bird houses in the regeneration area behind the CH administrative building in Burlington, Ontario. Yes, bird houses should be cleaned every year, usually spring before the birds return.

When I came to one of the bluebird style houses I noticed a head disappear inside the hole so I left that one undisturbed while continuing on to clean the rest. Other than that there were few signs of activity up there that day.

Earlier this week, I decided to take in the nice day so after eating lunch outside I went for a quick walk through the regeneration area. I was happy to see that one of the small houses I had cleaned out appeared to be claimed by a pair of Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) and the one I had left undisturbed did have someone fly away from it.

I snuck a little closer to the individual and indeed it was a bluebird. Yay! We had a pair of Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) nest up in this area last year so it was very nice to see them back.


Bluebird – Sialia sialis (male, I think) on the fence


Also seen were a number of bees feeding on the early blooming dandelions (warmed, and given a head start, by the southwest facing brick wall of the office). I observed at least two species of native bees nectaring on the dandelions (and covered in pollen!), along with the usual European Honey Bee and a type of wasp (time to put up some new native bee nesting sites). I also observed the first butterfly in the regeneration area for this season; a Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa). It is often one of the first butterflies seen in the year because they overwinter as adults so come out as soon as the temperature is warm enough. Sometimes they can even be seen mid-winter if we get a very mild spell. What would they do for food with no flowers out yet you ask? Well Mourning Cloaks (and some other butterflies) supplement their diet with tree sap, which would also be flowing (from a broken branch or wound on the tree) on those mild winter days.


Native bee (left), possibly a Mining Bee – Family Andrenidae, and European Honey Bee – Apis mellifera (right)

 Spring is well underway! Keep your eyes peeled; the birds, butterflies and bees are out and about!

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Halton Children’s Water Festival 2012

We asked Halton Children’s Water Festival coordinator, Meagan Byrne (@meg_i_Byrne), to guest blog about her experience planning and organizing the 2012 Halton Children’s Water Festival. Meagan had the job of filling in for a maternity leave half-way through and had to hit the ground running. She’s done a great job and here are her thoughts about the lead up to the festival:

“The final week has begun and the entire HCWF team is in overdrive mode. These are the times I like the best, because when you have months to work on details it is easy have your excitement for the event wane. Well this week will certainly make up for that!

This week a lot happened. The new HCWF website went live, the tents went up, the activity materials were dusted off, and newly purchased items are coming in every day. This can all come together so well because of my amazing co-workers and the hard work of the HCWF committee. Each person puts in so much to get this festival going every year it’s hard to think how I could do it without them.

One of the things I have enjoyed most about this job is working on our new website. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been amazing being part of such a great project. It’s had its difficulties, there’s nothing more frustrating than writing out a block of text only to realise that you have added an extra space or forgotten to add a link. But when it’s done and you can see your hard work, well, there’s nothing like website development to make you feel like your effort has had a tangible effect.

In the end any event, no matter how small, is always the end result of a lot of effort and it is the event planner’s lot to always be thinking “Okay it’s over and went well….What’s next?” I know that once the event starts and everything is going smoothly, I too will be thinking wistfully “What’s next?”

So what do you guys think of the new website? http://www.hcwf.ca We’d love to hear your thoughts!

We would like to thank the HCWF sponsors for all their support.

  • Aird & Berlis
  • City of Burlington
  • Cole Engineering
  • GE Power & Water
  • Town of Halton Hills
  • Town of Milton
  • Nalco
  • R.V. Anderson Associates
  • Storage Solutions
  • Thomson Rogers

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