by Tina Kelly –
Only one month and counting until the beginning of a new school year; it’s hard to believe summer is half over after the sunny weather’s tardy arrival. One month may seem like an insignificant amount of time in the spectrum of a 12-month year, but we’re here to remind you just how much fun and adventure you can squeeze in before the sound of a textbook’s cracking spine greets you in September.
Alongside the obvious summer adventures – swimming, skim-boarding, kayaking and hiking – there are a myriad of outdoor programs led by educators and experts in local parks. As an added bonus, these educational opportunities often come at no cost.
Did you know the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR) is represented by a scattering of locations throughout the Southern Gulf Islands, but they have one site on the Sannich Peninsula? Sidney’s McDonald Campground is not only a lush, beautiful place to pitch your tent: every Saturday night Parks Interpreters host “Smores n’ More” – a free educational night with all of the ingredients needed for ooey gooey smores. Should a fire ban be in effect, no need to miss out: a propane stove will be used. A different topic is featured each week: owls, sand dunes, Russell Island and clam gardens. Smores n’ More is ideal for families with children under 12 and bringing along a mug and flashlight is recommended.
If there is a budget for travel, catch a ferry to one or all island locations in the GINPR and take part in the geocaching challenge, complete the Xplorers Activity book, or head out on a tour using the Explora Guided Tour App.
The CRD Regional Parks have a jam-packed events and outings schedule for the month of August. A total of 19 offerings are available, each with a snappy theme and a variable age range. Many of these hands-on, sensory-loaded programs are geared to all ages but some focus on fun for five and under, or for five and over. Just try to resist engaging in programs with these catchy titles: Bug Buddies, Feeling Crabby, Bountiful Berries, The Beach Rocks or Sensational Seaweeds. Not only do their program captions draw you in, their locations should too; imagine learning at Witty’s Lagoon, Island View Beach, Elk/Beaver Lake, Coles Bay and East Sooke. For a full list of programs, dates and times visit www.crd.bc.ca/parks.
Before the days get short and rainy, and while our packs are filled for adventure not with schoolbooks, take advantage of exploring outdoor classrooms in nearby natural spaces.
The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea offers a variety of summer camps for children ages four to 13. Check www.salishseacentre.org for cost and an update on remaining spaces for August.