An exploration of the floodplain forest in Brackendale turned up some interesting and unexpected discoveries for a collection of intrepid young naturalists.
The theme of the recent walk was cottonwood trees, but as the group trekked through the forest, other elements in nature became apparent, such as sprouting salmonberry leaf shoots, the quirky habits of the red-breasted nuthatch and the detection of medicinal plants along the route.
Going by the name Squamish Young Naturalists Club (SYNC), the group’s catch phrase is “to be in sync with nature.”
The inspiration behind the group is Tehya Royal Brant, 8, from Squamish, who is home-schooled by her mother and confesses that she has a soft spot for all things related to nature.
“I was collecting a lot of things in nature and I felt maybe my friends would like to learn about nature, too,” said Tehya in a phone interview with The Chief.
Her mother, Heather Royal, agreed to the idea of a naturalist club.
“She has a profound love for nature,” said Royal of her daughter, adding that once the idea was sparked, she spoke to Meg Fellowes from the Squamish Environment Society (SES) who wholeheartedly supported the initiative. Fellowes led the group’s first outing in March, a field trip that attracted a mix of 16 children and adults.
Royal said what struck her was how it was such an amazing learning experience, not just for Tehya but also for the other children and adults.
“It became this opportunity for everyone to share and learn from each other,” she said, noting that the children were really engaged and asked questions and revealed their own personal nature stories.
Fellowes said she was overwhelmed by SYNC’s enthusiasm for nature.
“Children’s energy and curiosity is boundless,” she said. “Mostly, as adults, we sleepwalk when out for a walk or a bike ride. With SYNC, we are taking time to engage the senses, to hear the song of the winter wren, see the track of a cougar, smell a cottonwood bud and taste the new green of the hemlock tip.”
Connecting kids with nature has been a SES dream for many years, added Fellowes, and she said she is pleased the connection is finally taking place.
SYNC will conduct monthly field trips and each month the theme will change according to the ideas everyone brings forth, Royal said.
“We will rotate it around the Sea to Sky Corridor so that we get a sense of our neighbourhood.”
Royal said she is thrilled to support Tehya with SYNC and that it was a real gift to watch Tehya go and thank Fellowes at the end of the first field trip and then have everyone turn to thank her as well.
“She had this look of surprise on her face. It was really sweet,” Royal said.
Describing SYNC as “a seed that’s just starting to bloom,” Royal said there has been interest from other community members wishing to become involved.
She has connected with people who are willing to conduct field studies on everything from expeditions to go scouting for baby owls, discovery tours of the mudflats and a rock study led by a local geologist. In addition to this, once the weather improves, Royals said she would also love to do art-in-nature projects.
The children are bringing forth their own ideas too, she noted, so there is “an endless sea of possibilities.”
The next SYNC field trip is set for Sunday (April 22) and children and adults are welcome to participate. Contact Royal at (604) 898-1051 for more information.