Chantal Houde

Today I constantly strive to increase my ecoliteracy by learning from my natural surroundings. I greatly enjoy the feeling of connecting with the environment around me, and always try to remember that I am a part of a much larger natural system. There is one definitive event in my life that I feel greatly contributed to my ecoliteracy and opened my eyes to a more systems-based way of thinking.

In my final year of high school, I was not able to take the ‘Outdoor Education’ class offered because of class scheduling and work conflicts. I was disappointed, but decided I would take a trip on my own, through a Canadian company called Paddlefoot. I decided on a five-night whitewater canoe trip in Algonquin Park with a small group of other 15-17 year olds. I had been ‘car camping’ many times with my family as a child, but wanted something a little bit more intensive, and nature-focused. Over the course of the few days I was there, I learned so much about the environment, the importance of no-trace camping, and how humans interact with the world, as well as practical canoeing, survival, cooking and camping skills. I can still recall the strong feeling of connection I felt towards nature. One of the most profound moments was waking at dawn to the view pictured below, with a moose swimming across the lake towards our campsite.


Experiences like these are so important for youth to have. The outdoor education programs in schools are great, as well as companies that organize such trips. They aim to teach not only skills, but also an appreciation and respect for nature. I think even more environmentally based education should take place in schools, and should be mandatory, not just an optional extra.

Fun pictures of my trip!

Algonquin Park Site
Algonquin, the first provincial park in Ontario, protects a variety of natural, cultural, and recreational features and values. As one of the largest provincial parks, Algonquin is diverse and offers something for nearly everyone.

Algonquin Park has five objectives. They are:
  1. To protect provincially significant elements of the natural and cultural landscape of Algonquin Park;
  2. To provide outdoor recreation opportunities ranging from high-intensity day use to low intensity wilderness experiences;
  3. To provide opportunities for exploration and appreciation of the outdoor natural and cultural heritage of Algonquin Park;
  4. To provide Ontario's residents and out-of-province visitors with opportunities to discover and experience the distinctive regions of Algonquin Park; and
  5. To practise sustainable resource management in Algonquin Park for the long-term health of the Park's ecosystems and to provide recreational, cultural, and economic benefits.

More than an adventure company, PaddleFoot strives to make a positive difference in many areas. School programs for groups from eight to eighty began in 1997. Today more and more schools, public and private, are catching on to PaddleFoot's unique brand of experiential education. From city green spaces to wilderness thickets, PaddleFoot uses the natural environment to show the interconnectedness and interdependence of ecological/environmental systems and of social groups. In 2002, PaddleFoot began a relationship with the York Region District School Board and The Learning Center to provide high school credit programs for Ontario Secondary School students.