Calgary students and residents know the gem they have in the Fish Creek Environmental Learning Centre. For over 35 years, its home in a 1,300 hectare urban park has connected people with nature: the birds, animals and landscape not only create an outdoor classroom for 15,000 students each year, it’s also a space for the 180,000 residents in 18 communities bordering the park to enjoy cycling or a walk.
One of the largest urban parks in North America, Fish Creek Provincial Park sees 3 million visitors a year and has been named a top Calgary attraction on the Trip Advisor travel website. The six-classroom learning centre is at the heart of it all, offering curriculum-tied lessons—even scavenger hunts–to provide students with hands-on connections to nature in a way that textbooks alone can’t do.
As the centre has only two staff members, trained teachers, parent volunteers, scout leaders etc. are empowered to lead their groups. Students from a nearby school recently combined science with art curriculum for a five-month mosaic project. Others have learned First Nations cultural history at the onsite teepee and life-sized mounted bison. The legacy of the learning centre is evident in students who return to work on projects for a science fair, whose science grades improve, and who come back as volunteers.
At the Learning Centre, Friends of Fish Creek hosts day-long hikes, speakers events, and even a summer camp with community partners.