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Photos: Bugs, birds and berries — How a social services agency and nature groups are teaching Tri-City kids about the outdoors

A SHARE Family and Community Services program is helping dozens of families listen to the sounds of the surrounding environment.

Dozens of Tri-City families with young children are learning about nature in local parks this summer as part of a SHARE Family and Community Services program.

It’s the second year for the social service agency’s Nature Scavenger Hunt, which is open to children up to the age of six, as well as their siblings and caregivers.

SHARE also partners with nature groups such as the Burke Mountain Naturalists (BMN) and Tri-City Bear Aware to provide science mentorship to the little ones.

This morning (Aug. 5), about 15 children were at Deboville Slough with BMN’s John Saremba, who has a master’s degree in environmental science, to explore the surroundings.

There, they used a checklist for the hunt — created by Coquitlam resident Catherine Ho of SHARE — to search for birds nests, bear scat and beaver dams.

Some also borrowed magnifying bug viewers to get a closer look at the insects.

Saremba encouraged the kids to use their senses to, among other things:

  • listen for birds chirping, trickling water, wind in the trees and raindrops
  • smell the fresh air, decaying leaves and soil
  • feel the tree bark, grass, breeze and sunshine

Before the session began, Kate Smith and Bill Marshall entertained the crowd with stories and songs about Mother Earth.

"Music is the fastest way to bring everybody together," said Smith, a retired music teacher who worked with the Coastal Sound Music Academy.

"This is about them connecting with each other as much as it is about them connecting with nature," Ho stressed. "We all know that nature is so good for our health."

"One of the real benefits is that it opens their eyes up and they become curious about what’s outside," Saremba said, adding, "After the walks, we have questions and answers about what they saw. I probably learn as much as they do about their findings."

Saremba, who also talks about Indigenous uses of plants, said parents are taught about apps such as iNaturalist so they can continue to discover and identify flora and fauna.

As well, they’re supplied with the Discover Nature in the Tri-Cities booklet, produced by Burke Mountain Naturalists, which highlights the types of habitat, animals and vegetation in key parks.

Previous scavenger hunts were at Mundy, Coquitlam River and Como Lake parks.

Next up are:

  • Hyde Creek trail (Aug. 12) 
  • Blakeburn Lagoons (Aug. 19)
  • Minnekhada Regional Park (Aug. 26)

The outings are free and open to all Tri-City families; no referral is needed. To register, email catherine.ho@sharesociety.ca.

After the summer run, SHARE will continue with its family nature classes once a month.