High Park Nature Centre
Our Impact Why We Exist
Mission: The High Park Nature Centre promotes awareness, understanding and respect through hands-on, year-round environmental education in Toronto's largest green space, High Park.
Vision: The High Park Nature Centre will be one of the recognized Toronto leaders in outdoor environmental education.
Our Story What We Do
Founded in 1999 by High Park Initiatives, the High Park Nature Centre promotes awareness and respect for nature by providing school programs, curriculum enrichment, educational camps, nature clubs, and community outreach programs. Our outdoor education and park stewardship programs currently serve more than 9,000 children, youth, families, adults and educators each year.
High Park Nature Centre provides "nature in the city" experiences to those living in dense urban areas - no car or cottage required! We serve a diverse audience from across the Greater Toronto Area, including children, families, elementary and secondary school students and teachers, ESL schools, day care centres, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, community centres and recreational programs. Through the Nature Centre’s programs, over 60,000 participants of all ages have been able to “give back” to High Park through park stewardship activities like planting native grasses, wildflowers and segdes or removing invasive plant species.
Our Programs How We Do It
Class trips from KG to grade 12 gets students out and hiking through the nature in High Park. Students gain hands-on experience in the diversity of the park through our seasonally based programs. These visits foster a love for education, promote active outdoor pursuits and inspire appreciation and respect for High Park’s wildlife. Students learn how they can continue on to be stewards of the environment.
Program Impact“This was the best trip ever! I really liked the snowshoes and how we walked on mountains. I can’t wait to come back with my family!” Student, Sponsored Class Visit
Toronto Vital Signs® Report
- The level of youth inactivity is trending in the wrong direction (and likely even worse than the data show, because the figures are self-reported and therefore generally under-reported).
Families and youth join our clubs to build strong community connections and enrich their children’s social and educational experiences with hands-on learning in an outdoor environment. Nature clubs range from 'Nature Baby', our caregiver and tot program, to High Park Rangers youth group, where teens up to 16 years old develop their environmental leadership skills, perform meaningful stewardship work, and prepare their own public interpretive hike to teach the community about nature in High Park. The small group sizes of our programs provide kids with lots of personal attention as well as flexibility to learn and interact at their own pace.
“I wanted to let you all know that we loved the effect of your camp on our daughter. She came home filthy and happy every day and she even stopped me to show me some milkweed she found. I’ve never been so proud and happy for her. Clearly exploring nature has resonated with her deeply and we will be having her come to you again! Parent
Toronto Vital Signs® Report
- 41% of elementary schools that have no extended day programs report that parents have requested one.
- Extended day programs have been shown to be especially beneficial for disadvantaged families. Yet the families who are most likely to benefit from the programs are the least likely to have access.
- Good physical and mental health are vitally linked to, and affected by, almost all the issue areas in the Toronto’s Vital Signs Report…..strong social networks, and a high level of education all enhance the health of Torontonians.
- Although children and youth registration in City recreation programs continues to grow (6.9% since 2011) 53, the percentage of youth (ages 12-19) who are inactive during leisure time has jumped to 40.5% (and Statistics Canada research shows that self-reported activity levels tend to be over-estimated)
- Although the city has responded to the desire of echo boomers to live downtown with nearly 12,000 floors of residential construction built or under consideration in the past decade, a “mini-baby boom” means fierce competition for services for new parents and their children: summer camps, parent drop-in programs, sports, daycare and elementary school spots, after-school care for older kids—even teenage babysitters.
Throughout the year, grandparents, parents, young couples, teens, children and babies alike all enjoy our bi-weekly themed guided walks. Lead by nature interpreters, visitors explore the natural wonders in High Park’s incredible savannahs, woodlands and wetlands. Our special, seasonally themed events such as Decorate a Tree For the Birds, Moth Night, and Urban Bat Walk, to name a few, are often lead by guest experts and attract our largest groups. They provide a wealth of fascinating knowledge on specialized environmental topics and inspire both old and new naturalists. Our walks and special events are a free or low-cost way locals and tourists can take advantage the green space in the city, and avoiding extra commuting. For adults and seniors who want to delve deeper into learning or connecting with nature, we provide workshops that are information based, such as Mushrooms and Other Fungi, or art based such as Botanical Sketchbook.
“That was my best night ever, even better than Friday movie night” says youth attendee of the Urban Bat Walk. Mother remarks that she is enjoying having her very own resident bat expert, and is looking forward to attending the next Bat Walk with her enthusiastic son! Attendees, Urban Bat Walk
“Having time set aside in my week to spend in the company of others who share an interest in art and the outdoors, was what I most enjoyed about the Sketchbook workshop” Attendee, Adult Workshop
Toronto Vital Signs® Report
- A thriving arts and cultural community is a sign of a city’s ability to innovate, to solve problems, to attract visitors, and to entice talented new residents from around the world
- Increasingly longer commute times (an average of 53.5 minutes daily in 2010 for Ontarians with paid employment) have a negative effect on health and intensify time crunch. Torontonians have the longest commute in the province: 65.6 minutes.
- Toronto has the largest share of Canadian-born children of immigrants among Canada’s metropolitan areas. Parent drop-in programs are especially important to newcomers who may not have the support of their extended families and may be socially isolated in their new communities.
The High Park Nature Centre gives the community a chance to do something positive to help preserve the park’s natural areas for future generations. Participants in our School, Clubs and Camp programs explore the rare black oak savannah firsthand as they plant native seedlings and remove invasive plant species. While they get their hands dirty they also learn about the important role the plants in High Park play to dependant animals and insects.
All our programs are joined by enthusiastic volunteers. We facilitate many types of volunteer opportunities - from teaching our school programs, to research to art and marketing.Volunteers work alongside staff as nature interpreters, and participate as committee members, program photographers, graphic designers and on our Board of Directors, gaining valuable experience and sense of community.
“Planting native plants with my daughter in the Nature Baby program gave us a way to appreciate the seasons and feel like we are helping to care for the park” Parent, Nature Clubs program
Toronto Vital Signs® Report
- Toronto won’t be able to absorb the effects of climate change (increasing and severe weather events) if its natural and built environment isn’t healthy. Features such as abundant tree canopy, storm water control, and green roofs are key to the city’s resilience. Parks, recreation areas and walkable neighbourhoods enhance the health and quality of life of all residents.
- Research shows a high correlation of sense of community belonging with physical and mental health.
- In 2010 Hamilton’s Hill Strategies Research found that volunteering helps build stronger and safer communities, forms strong community bonds, and creates relationships between people who might not otherwise find each other.
- Provide pathways and opportunities for residents to become more active, better connected, and leaders in their communities.
What You Can Do
What your donation will support: The High Park Nature Centre’s Nearer to Nature Adopt-A-Class program brings children and youth from schools and groups in Toronto’s underserved, high priority neighbourhoods to High Park to participate in a curriculum-linked outdoor program at no cost.
Help children grow NEARER TO NATURE: Your donation will enable one class or youth group in need to exercise their minds and bodies while connecting with nearby plants, trees, animals, birds and bugs and lending a hand to help preserve one of Toronto’s most significant and fragile natural areas through stewardship activities.
Sponsor Level 1 – $500: Your sponsorship covers the cost of program delivery, led by two experienced nature interpreters as well as a subsidy for transportation to the Centre.
Sponsor Level 2 – $1500: Provide a class in need with our High Park Through the Seasons, three-visit package program, where students will experience the beauty and diversity of High Park throughout the seasons – from autumn leaves and acorns to crisp snow and animal tracks to spring migration and woodland wildflowers. Students will gain an in-depth understanding of the unique ecology of the park and the importance of protecting and restoring it. Your sponsorship covers the cost of program delivery, led by two experienced nature interpreters as well as a subsidy for transportation to the Centre.
What your donation will support: Your donation goes directly toward purchasing items that help us provide environmental programming to students, families, and the greater community.
Nature Crafts for Kids - $10: We encourage young crafters to explore and take inspiration from High Park’s incredible natural environment. With a little imagination, a few leaves, twigs, acorn caps and blades of grass can be transformed into works of art!Naturalist Library - $25: From field guides to outdoor education manuals to children’s nature storybooks, the Nature Centre’s library is filled with resources to help curious naturalists-in-training of all ages to discover High Park’s incredible biodiversity.Stewardship Supplies - $50: Did you know that High Park is home to one of North America’s most endangered ecosystems? Programs at the Nature Centre help children, youth and families discover the web of life in the park’s black oak savannah and give back to High Park through environmental stewardship.
What your donation will support: To purchase food, tank supplies and veterinary care for our pets.
Donation impact: The highlight of many visits to the Nature Centre is spending some quality time with one of our amazing animals. Adopt one or more of our pets for one month, or on a monthly basis and your donation will help care for our pets (suggested donation of $5-$20 per month).
What your donation will support: Donating your time to help teach alongside our staff during programs, write and research for our online communications, and create art and marketing to help promote the Nature Centre.
Donation impact: Volunteers help our programs be engaging and run smoothly, and build a stronger community bond. Volunteers work alongside staff as nature interpreters, and participate as committee members, program photographers, graphic designers and on our Board of Directors. Volunteers are an integral to our structure and programs.