Young Naturalist embracing their tree hugging ways

From left: Leanne Boissonnault and her children Andrew and Skylar hug some trees in St. Jean Baptiste Park to show how easy it is to enter the Morinville and Area Young Naturalist Club’s new tree-hugging photo contest. – Stephen Dafoe Photo

by Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – A relatively new group for youth and families is offering its members an opportunity to learn about nature while having fun at the same time. The Morinville and Area Young Naturalist Club (YNC) is part of Nature Alberta’s YNC network, a nature-focused program with the goal of teaching children between the ages of 5 and 13 as well as their families about nature.

Leanne Boissonnault started the local chapter in September of 2013 and said the group has exceeded her initial expectations. “The whole point of starting the club was to get families out enjoying nature,” she said. “With technology and everything in the world nowadays, kids just aren’t getting out and enjoying the love of trees and the love and respect of nature.”

The group has surpassed the initial goal of attracting 10 families. A key to the program is the diversity of age enjoying the joys of nature. In its first nine months of operation the group has been involved in a number of outdoor pursuits: ice fishing, an opportunity to see a live owl up close, nature hikes, and an opportunity to visit a bee farm to see how bees produce honey.

It was the latter trip that was of special interest to Boissonnault’s 10-year-old daughter Skylar, a member of the club who said she learned a lot on the trip. “It’s really fun because we go to places that we don’t usually go to,” she said of the group’s varied activities. “I never knew that the drones in the nest get kicked out for winter and they die off. They don’t have a stinger so you can totally hold them. They’re so cool.”

Looking for tree huggers

The club is embracing the tree hugger label those who enjoy nature are branded with. Over the summer months the YNC is holding a Tree Hugger Photo Contest. People are encouraged to take a photo of themselves or their family members hugging a tree wherever they are. “The more creative or the more funny it is, the better,” Boissonnault said. Photos can be sent by email or through the group’s Facebook page. Photos will be organized in an album. The photo or photos with the most likes will receive a prize, including a tree donated by Home Hardware in Morinville. Those interested in entering the contest do not have to be members of the group to enter. Entries can be sent or through the Morinville and Area Young Naturalist Club’s Facebook page.

The cost to join the group is $20 per year per family. Costs are kept low by sponsorships from local businesses and organizations. Those interested in becoming a member can contact Leanne Boissonnault via the previously mentioned contact methods.

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