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Tofino's First Sustainability Camp: Success All-Round!

4 June 2007

By John Platenius, Tofino Botanical Gardens Foundation

The Tofino Botanical Gardens Foundation is pleased to announce that its first Sustainability Camp was a resounding success. The goal of Sustainability Camp is to increase youth knowledge and awareness about global and local environmental issues, with the hope that this increased awareness will help the next generation to develop solutions and inspire action for positive environmental and social change.

The Grade Six class from Tofino’s Wickaninnish Elementary School participated in the first Sustainability Camp. The camp was two nights, and a total of three full days. The camp was guided by the six-day Sustainability Camp curriculum developed by the Tofino Botanical Gardens Foundation. The 60-page curriculum is free to use and implement, and is located at the Camp’s website: This is the first camp of its kind, with a complete curriculum for kids devoted to issues about how to create a sustainable future.

The Tofino Botanical Gardens Foundation raised enough money to support the entire cost of this first camp for the students and donated staff time and resources. The Foundation is grateful to the Shell Environmental Fund and many community members and businesses for their support: The Wickaninnish Community School, Anahata Yoga, Fourth Street Market, Tofino Coop Hardware, Tofino Parks and Recreation Department and the Raincoast Café.

The students spent the three days learning in the Tofino Botanical Gardens’ natural settings – the gardens, the old growth temperate rainforest and the mudflats – as well as two local beaches. The kids and chaperones stayed and learned in the Clayoquot Field Station, a new dormitory-classroom facility located in the Gardens.

Camp Format

As part of Sustainability Camp, the students learned many different aspects about how humans interact with the environment and how we can improve these interactions to create a sustainable future.

The first module focused on how important community and effective communication is to make change. These lessons were reinforced with games in the gardens, the rainforest and the mudflats adjacent to the Gardens.

In the next module, the students used the mudflats to visualize the processes involved in making fossil fuels. Later in the Field Station’s classroom, they learned how old these fuels are, and why it is important to conserve these.

In the third module, students learned about energy conservation, renewable energy and why it is important that we look to these energy choices. This was a recurring theme throughout the Camp, which began as a discussion and questioning period in the Clayoquot Field Station’s classroom.

The fourth module took the kids out to a sandy beach with an excellent rocky intertidal outcrop to learn the importance of biodiversity. As students interacted with tide pools, lessons about conserving biodiversity for its own right, and how we rely on this diversity were reinforced.

During the fifth module, the students spent an afternoon at the world-famous Long Beach focusing on pollution. A Parks Canada interpreter began the afternoon session with a slideshow about marine pollution and plastic contaminants and then the students were sent out to the beach for a “beach clean-up”. After an afternoon cleaning up the beach, the students categorized and graphed the pollution, reinforcing the scope of the problem. The students’ were amazed that over 90% of the garbage collected on the beach was a form of plastic – many lessons before and after this module talked about how this plastic was made from fossil fuels.

The last module circled back to the community module that was delivered in the beginning of the camp. Key members of the community were invited to answer questions that the students’ prepared. Community members included a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s council member (Eli Enns), the town of Tofino’s mayor (John Fraser), the president of the Tofino-Longbeach Chamber of Commerce (Larry Nicolay), a local school board member (Sally Mole), the manager of the local grocery store (Al Krukoff), and a local business person working in Sustainable Industrial Design (Magnus Hanton).

This article was published in the Canadian Botanical Conservation Network Newsletter, May 2007, Volume 4, Issue 3.  To subscribe, contact the editor, Yann Vergriete,

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