EcoSpark in the Park - Connecting community, citizen science and fun in nature

Date: October 28, 2016 Author: Julia Martini Categories: Latest

EcoSpark in the Park – Fun in the park for all!

This blog was contributed by guest writer, Tenley Conway

On a sunny September day, my nine year old son and I headed down to the Humber River for EcoSpark in the Park.  Tom immediately volunteered to put on a pair of waders and hop into the river, a place he had been told not to go on previous school trips and family visits to the park.  He diligently shuffled in the mud while Katherine, a volunteer with EcoSpark, held the net to collect the benthic organisms.  Tom and the other kids then emptied the net, washing away the dirt and muck to uncover what they had collected. 

Credit: Tenley Conway

As a university educator and researcher, I understand the value of experiential learning. That’s why I was excited to become a board member of EcoSpark and champion their wonderful Changing Currents program.  It provides hands-on environmental science experiences that foster a greater awareness of the environment.  Equally important, it gets kids outside to see the nature in their own ‘backyards’, hopefully spurring on more trips to the local stream, park or conservation area; places for exploration and recreation, but also the spaces  we now understand can help reduce stress levels and contribute to healthy brain development.  As a parent, it was great to see the joy on Tom’s face when they found a Minnow in the sample, and when yet another tiny organism suddenly scooted across the bucket.  His favorite parts were finding the big wiggly worm and a Salmon skeleton in the river. Or, as Tom said, “it was fun in the park for all!”

Tenley Conway is a Director on EcoSpark’s Board of Directors. Tenley Conway is an Associate Professor in Geography at University of Toronto Mississauga. She received her PhD and Master of Science in Geography from Rutgers University and has a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources from Cornell University. Tenley’s research looks to integrate insights from environmental geography and urban ecology to improve our understanding of the relationship between human activity and the physical environment within the urban landscape.

Image left: Photo by Tenley Conway


EcoSpark in the Park was funded by WWF Go Wild Community Grant. The event was an opportunity for EcoSpark to share information about its flagship program, Changing Currents, and engage future citizen scientists to discover how we have been monitoring water quality in the GTA for over 15 years. The day was filled with many different hands-on activities from benthic sampling demonstrations, building frog habitats, and learning about Ontario’s turtles with the Toronto Zoo Adopt-a-Pond team, and food provided by Simply BBQ Catering. Excited to discover more about nearby natural spaces and what we can do support a healthy environment, community members and learners of all ages came out to enjoy the sunshine-y day. We hope to see you in the field next time!