Thursday, May 05, 2005

Benefits of outdoor education are huge

PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2005.05.05
EDITION: Final
SECTION: City
PNAME: City Editorial
PAGE: B4
BYLINE: Roy Macskimming
SOURCE: The Ottawa Citizen
ILLUSTRATION: Photo: Cody Storm Cooper, The Ottawa Citizen / RoyMacSkimming says taxpayers should lobby for secure, dedicated provincial funding for the region's two superb facilities for teaching children about nature.

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Benefits of outdoor education are huge

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Re: Armchair biologists, April 23.

Tom Spears' article is right about two essential points in teaching young people about nature:

- Children will develop lasting convictions about protecting the environment only if they experience direct, personal contact with nature;

- Ottawa public-school children are extremely fortunate to have opportunities for such contact: Our public educators had the vision to create two superb nature facilities, the Bill Mason and MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centres. Both centres, one in the city's west end and the other in the east, offer students of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board rich learning experiences in the outdoors.

The Bill Mason Centre was named after the great Canadian canoeist, naturalist and filmmaker. The MacSkimming Centre, formerly the Winters family's farm, was opened in 1966 and named after my father, William T. MacSkimming, an Ottawa educator who believed in the vital importance of giving urban children a knowledge of the natural world.

Thousands of Ottawans acquired some of the best memories of their childhoods there, at the pioneer village site or one of the other sites along the Ottawa River.

As Tom Spears' article pointed out, both the Mason and MacSkimming centres have been under threat of closure for years because of provincial spending cutbacks. Closing them would be a disastrous loss for Ottawa children and the future of our environment. Fortunately, the current Ottawa-Carleton District School Board values the centres enough to keep them open, at least for the moment, but at far lower levels of staffing and programming.

Ottawa taxpayers should ask Ontario's minister of education to provide secure, dedicated funding for outdoor education. The long-term benefits to the community are huge.

Roy MacSkimming,

Perth

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