Kids of all ages can now use their smart phones to explore outdoors.
That’s right, outdoors.
Registered charity Climate’s Sake celebrated its innovative TreeCaching trail expansion Tuesday, Feb. 3 at the Humber Arboretum at Hwy. 27 and Finch Avenue West.
Retired Teachers of Ontario District 22 Etobicoke York funded the 11-tree expansion of the Beech-Vista Trail of 16 QR (Quick Recognition) code-tagged trees.
“I’d love to see grandparents bringing their grandchildren, children bringing their grandparents. Kids are leaving their friends for (computer) monitors. Not playing street hockey. I want to bring that back,” said Alice Casselman, Climate’s Sake’s founder and president.
“Let’s take them where they are and take it outside. You need to roll with where kids are at, speak their language.”
TreeCaching is a self-guided nature walk. Trail users download a free QR reader on any mobile device. Scan the trees’ codes. The scan directs users to a website to learn more about that tree, and interesting facts about that tree species.
QR-coded trees on the trail include the American beech, bitternut hickory, blue beech, ironwood, sugar maple and white ash, with more to be added soon.
Climate’s Sake is a Mississauga-based organization that provides community-based tree planting and monitoring programs.
The organization researched and designed the QR code tags, which are about the size of a credit card.
Casselman said she believes it is the first QR-coded TreeCaching trail in North America.
Jimmy Vincent, Humber Arboretum’s Centre for Urban Ecology co-ordinator, outdoor education instructor and camp director, effused with enthusiasm about Climate Sake’s TreeCaching trail.
“It’s a really amazing combination of technology and climate change monitoring making something of interest much more user friendly and user applicable,” he said.
“It’s taking getting to know a tree at the next level.”
Some Toronto public school students could use TreeCaching tags in their schoolyards for outdoor teaching purposes.
TreeCaching tags will be used at 60 Toronto District School Board schools that are part of the Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) program, as well as 150 of the board’s Model Schools for Inner Cities, to study biodiversity in their schoolyards, Climate’s Sake reported in its 2014-2015 fall/winter newsletter.
Teachers and students can order a STEM kit for their schoolyard from Climate’s Sake.
Casselman was a science department head for most of her 35 year-teaching career in Etobicoke. She worked in weekend education at Toronto and Region Conservation Authority for 20 years. She has a masters in outdoor education. A small group of retired Etobicoke York teachers joined Casselman on a crisp, sunny afternoon Tuesday to unveil the trail’s TreeCaching sign at Humber Arboretum’s outdoor education area.
Only the sound of a winter’s wind could be heard as supporters marveled at the forest surrounding them, cup of hot chocolate in hand.
“Alice has always been passionate about nature, about ecology and about kids,” said Sheila Tate, a retired former principal of North Albion Collegiate.
Tate said she is pleased by the support and involvement of the Etobicoke York retired teachers in Casselman’s latest project.
Jane Li, CEO of Springbay Studio Ltd., came out to support the project.
Her company is a games developer with an interest in how games can be utilized to help kids enjoy more time outdoors.
“A lot of people interested in the environment have concerns about kids spending too much time with digital technology thinking it is a disconnect from the natural world,” Li said.
“Tree tagging is an example of incorporating real things in the natural world into the game world. It makes going outside the fashion, the cool way.”
In August, Climate’s Sake expanded its TreeCaching trails of QR-coded tagged trees to include Heartland Forest, Erindale Park, Riverwood Conservancy, Sheridan College’s Davis and Oakville campuses and Stamford Collegiate Institute.
“Margaret Mead said it. I’m trying to live it,” Casselman said of her charity’s innovative, pioneering work.
Mead was a famous American cultural anthropologist.
Casselman was referencing one of Mead’s most recognizable quotes.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” Mead said.