Collage of waterfall and tree planting

Lessons in nature at Kakabeka Falls

Big thanks to the students of Valley Central Public School, especially Olivia Davis (grade 7) and Paige Arnold (grade 8), for writing this post about their recent trip to Kakabeka Falls.

On September 19 students from Valley Central Public School headed to Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The students were excited to visit the park and take part in some outdoor learning activities.

Valley Central Grade 7 and 8 students are part of a new and exciting learning opportunity called Learning Academies.  Learning Academies are designed to engage students in community connected experiential learning opportunities. The program is focused on community sustainability, including exploring our natural and built environment, and fine arts.

As students, we are engaged in documenting our learning through e-portfolios, blogs, and social media as we learn to become responsible digital citizens and 21st century learners.

Learning in nature

Our first experiential learning opportunity was our recent visit to Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park!

While in the park we helped the environment by planting trees, and built up our art skills by sketching different landscapes.

We will get into our adventure in a second, but first, did you know, that Kakabeka Falls is the second highest waterfall in Ontario? We didn’t! We couldn’t believe that it’s over 40 metres high!

Now, we will tell you about our trip!

Planting trees

Students planting trees

The first activity we did at Kakabeka Falls was tree planting. We thought it would be a simple job but, but it turns out it’s much more complicated than it looks.

We came across a unique challenge in the geologic structure of Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, because the ground was largely made up of shale. This required us to have the assistance of a digging machine to dig holes big enough for the tree.

Once the hole was dug our next step was to pick out all the big pieces of shale. This was necessary because air spaces around the base of the tree can freeze the tree roots in the winter. This would cause the tree to die.

We put down a layer of mulch made of decaying leaves, bark, or compost. The mulch acts as food for the sapling throughout the tree’s growth cycle.

Kids planting trees

Once a layer of mulch had been put down we began to loosen the roots of the sapling by pulling the roots out of the soil bed.

Finally, we placed the tree in its new home and packed it in top soil and also soil from the ground.

We were initially excited about going to the park and planting trees, but we were even more engaged when we found out the purpose.

Park officials explained to us that the park was threatened by Emerald Ash Borer. The Emerald Ash Borer is a destructive insect that kills trees across the province.

We felt great about helping nature through a hands-on experience!

Art in the outdoors

Sketching the falls

Back in our classrooms we were learning about the Group of Seven painters.

The Group of Seven were known for painting landscapes, however, they weren’t realistic.

We took our learning from the classroom, and had the opportunity to apply it through sketching in the park.

Each of us was challenged to sketch 5 scenes. We felt that drawing in person felt more natural and calming than drawing off the internet.

Students chose a wide variety of spaces to sketch in including the trees, the falls, the trails, and the rock cliffs.

Meditating at the park

Drawing landscapes at the park was very fun! Plus, you got to sketch with your friends which made it even more enjoyable.

To wrap up our trip to Kakabeka Falls we ended with some calming meditation.

We closed our eyes, opened our minds, and let nature take the lead.

We really connected with nature and lived in the moment.

It was good for the human soul… Almost like yoga!

Fun at the falls

Kid sketching at picnic bench

Our experience at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park was much more than we imagined.

We asked some of our classmates what they thought of the trip and they said it was fun, exciting, amazing, hard work, messy and enjoyable. It was definitely a great learning experience!

Our time at Kakabeka Falls was without a doubt a new and fun adventure for all of us. We accomplished planting a tree, and experienced different varieties of sketching.

We would definitely go back again!