By Darren Lum
The Dahl Forest in Minden Hills became the setting for learning when Minden resident Jaime Bilodeau her partner and her two-year-old daughter Holly set out on a hike with the Explore Kits for Kids backpack.
The Explore Kits for Kids backpacks hold close to two-dozen citizen science tools and are an extension of the HHOA O4Y Mobile Classroom which can be used in schools libraries trade shows special events on the bank of a river or at the edge of a wetland.
Bilodeau said she appreciated the pack for all the tools but particularly how it encouraged her daughter to explore.
“This kit is designed for those unfamiliar with local flora and fauna. It’s a perfect kit for those visiting the area. Both my partner and I know the area so well that we honestly didn’t use any of the reference materials but the kit really got Holly interested in going for an adventure to find turtles and frogs and kitties” she wrote.
This was Bilodeau’s first trip to the 500-acre Dahl Forest located five kilometres from Gelert and managed by the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust.
The kit has now “sparked a desire for us to take more family adventures.”
Among the items inside the backpack: a magnifying screen; strainer; bug net; dry erase board; compass/whistle; four double-sided information cards with names and drawings of leaves various birds such as eagles and hawks tracks of animals insect larvae and nymphs; writing implements and a retractable measuring tape. Bilodeau said the tools most used during their hike were the magnifier and the net.
She plans on using the backpack again for another trip.
“We encountered a lot of wildlife – dead (snake) and alive and some cool fungus and so many kinds of moss (which I had to research when I got home to find out what it was). We will definitely use the pack again. We would like to take it with us camping to try and catch some water bugs with the net” she wrote.
The idea came from the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association and CARP Haliburton which obtained funding in 2018 from the New Horizons for Seniors program to build a mobile classroom and launch the HHOA Outdoors 4 Youth Club. The backpack contents were also provided by The Land Between’s Turtle Guardians program Robinson’s General Store in Dorset Haliburton Foodland the Friends of Algonquin Park and the Glecoff’s Family Store in Haliburton.
“The HHOA and CARP Haliburton hold a joint interest in seniors teaching youth and youth teaching seniors – the transfer of knowledge between all ages with the outdoors being the venue and with nature providing the teaching tools” a press release from the HHOA says.
Backpacks can be picked up from library branches in Dysart Minden Wilberforce Dwight or Baysville. In total there are 25 backpacks 20 of them are available for loan from the libraries. The remaining five will be at the HHOA fish hatchery where three will be used for the O4Y mobile classroom and two at the Turtle Guardians office.
Bilodeau plans to return to the Dahl Forest which offers interesting vegetation and history including wild oregano and old stone chimneys “standing like hidden giants in the overgrowth.”
The Outdoors 4 Youth committee welcomes anyone who would would like to contribute especially youth and seniors though all ages are welcome. Contact the HHOA at 705-457 9664 and leave a message for Rebecca or email her at hhoaO4Y@gmail.com.