Foley Mountain Outdoor Environmental Education
Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation
November 15, 2012
Overview:Background - The Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation (RVCF) is a registered environmental charity raising money and gifts to help take care of the Rideau Valley watershed in Eastern Ontario. We believe that a clean, healthy environment is fundamental to healthy individuals, healthy families and ultimately, healthy communities. Foley Mountain Conservation Area, owned and operated by the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA), is a rugged 800 acre natural environment area in one of the most bio-diverse regions of Eastern Ontario. Since 1974, the site has been offering outdoor recreation and environmental education programs and facilities. If offers some unique features including the Spy Rock Lookout, trails, picnic areas, group camping, swimming, education programs, Interpretive Centre, and a new Outdoor Environmental Education Centre. Our efforts are based on the premise that raising environmental awareness through hands on experience in our natural areas leads to long term support for their protection and to more sustainable decisions in our daily lives.
Target Market - Foley Mountain’s main target group is children and families with over 4000 students attending program annually. We also promote recreational and educational opportunities to local residents and seasonal visitors contributing to a total annual visitation of over 14,000 people.
Outdoor Learning Centre - The RVCA has undertaken the development of a new Outdoor Environmental Education Centre (a relocated historic log barn) at Foley Mountain and can now offer better year round access for groups and park visitors. The centre is being fitted with an off-grid solar energy system and wood stove. An expansion of the environmental education program is underway in recognition of this new facility.
Environmental Education Program - The outdoor environmental education program at Foley Mountain provides children with hands-on, experiential, curriculum-based experiences that will help them to understand and connect with our natural world. There are close to 20 programs offered for kindergarten through grade twelve. Programs cover a variety of topics including pond and forest ecology, animal adaptations, orienteering, and snowshoeing using hands-on exploration and activities. In addition to day visits, schools and community groups can also make use of the group camping area and Interpretive Centre for overnight trips.
The Challenge - Foley Mountain is surrounded by some of the most rural locations in the area where schools are very small and often isolated from each other. This makes the funding, busing, and travelling associated with field trips very challenging. Teachers and Principals are constantly stressing the desire for outdoor education opportunities but often fall short when it comes to paying for the program and transportation.
Program Proposal - RVCA has been working with teachers to find a solution. If the cost for travel and participation in the program became available it was determined that close to 20 classes would be able to participate in the Foley Mountain outdoor environmental program that would have not otherwise been able to. With an average cost of $225 per class for the program and $500 for busing, these 20 classes could participate for a total fee of $14,500.
Impact - This program will directly impact 400-600 students along with their teachers and adult volunteers. By participating in hands-on activities that connect students to nature, they will gain a greater appreciation for the natural world fostering a strong environmental ethic and contributing to more sustainable communities. This will also provide more children with the opportunity to be active in the outdoors. With children spending an increasing number of hours in front of screens, this is an important benefit. More research is indicating that getting out and active in the natural world has many positive physical, emotional, and mental effects.
Sustainability - The RVCA has been offering quality outdoor environmental education programming for over 35 years. Although this funding program is designed to serve 20 classes, it is an opportunity to build the foundation for an ongoing program. Partners including the RVCF and the Friends of Foley Mountain are discussing possibilities for longer term partnerships and funding opportunities.