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GREEN JOB YOUTH SPOTLIGHTS

Green Job Spotlight: Kyra Burkart, Forest and Wetland Outdoor Educator

August 07, 2019

Kyra Burkart

Kyra Burkart (left) and her outdoor education colleagues give Green Jobs a thumbs up.

“So many kids are out of touch with nature. But once you get them outdoors, even the ones who are ‘too cool for school’ love exploring the natural world,” says Kyra Burkart. She worked as a Forest and Wetland Outdoor educator in a two-month spring program aimed at students from grades four to 12 in Alberta.

Kyra credits taking a “seeing your curriculum in the real world” approach with capturing kids’ attention. At the Cooking Lake–Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, an hour east of Edmonton, she helped kids connect with the forest by examining the natural and human factors that shape the forest landscape.

“PLT Canada is inspired by youth like Kyra who are using the outdoors to engage with our future generations. Activities and learning tools like the ones being used by Kyra will be a foundation for PLT Canada as it develops ways to support more educators and youth leaders with the tools they need to get more kids outdoors,” says Jess Kaknevicius, Vice President, Community Engagement at PLT Canada.

Kyra used games like “meet a tree” where kids are blindfolded and given a chance to hug and touch a tree before being asked to identify what kind it is. “Kids love being spun around afterward and then seeing who can correctly identify different trees,” she says.

Another favourite activity is pond dipping, which involved looking at the diverse life that exists in a wetland by examining water samples in an ice cube tray. “You can get kids screaming when they realize how teeming with leeches, midges, and larvae the samples are. This leads into learning the differences between bogs, marshes and fens,” Kyra says.

Parent volunteers on the field trips are encouraged to learn how to pond dip using simple items like a sieve so they can share the activity with other kids on the field trip and some told Kyra they planned to use pond dipping as a fun family activity.

Senior high school students took advantage of activities that tie directly into their curriculum. They compared different forest types through a comprehensive plot study and investigated the opportunities and challenges of a multi-use forest area. Students explored the living cycle of the forest by studying plants, how they grow and the role of decomposition. Students also learned how sustainable forest management allows forests to be a renewable natural resource.

Kyra’s Green Job was with Inside Education. It works to help teachers inspire and engage young stewards by incorporating environmental and natural resource education into their classrooms and through field trips. Her position, like all others funded through Project Learning Tree Canada’s (PLT Canada) Green Jobs program, are supported in large part by strong employer networks at the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and Canadian Parks Council.

Kyra is considering pursuing a teaching degree after she finishes her studies in environmental and conservation sciences at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. “My Green Job really opened my eyes about career opportunities in education that happen inside and outside the classroom and it helped develop marketable skills,” Kyra says. “Public speaking and being able to hold the attention of 30 kids are just some of the cool things I can do now.”

After the program finished with the end of the school term, Kyra found herself back home in Nelson, B.C. where she landed a position as an outreach and education coordinator with the city. Like her Green Job in Alberta, her current work takes her outside where she is happy to “give the gift of loving nature to others,” Kyra says.

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