My Eco Fun Summer with Youth Campers

January 24, 2020

Women smiling, standing in front of a tree with a mountain in the background.

Nothing puts a smile on Nicole Mylnikov’s face like a chance to get out in the forest. Photo: Nicole Mylnikov

By Nicole Mylnikov

Getting kids excited about the natural world around them was one of the best parts of my Green Job.

At the core of the Evans Lake Youth Camp is our Eco-Fun outdoor education program. The Evans Lake Forest Education Society is a not for profit charity (and former SFI Community Grant recipient) with the mandate to offer forest education programs for children and youth.

Learning about the wonders of the forest

Working as a camp counsellor, I helped our campers learn about the wonders of the forest, outdoor survival skills and how to paddle a canoe. Eco Fun is all about helping kids appreciate the outdoors, learn about the environment and see things in new ways.

We help our campers see how forests connect with our everyday lives, even if you live in a city. A lot of kids don’t know how important forests are for so many essential things like providing clean water and purifying the air we breathe.  

There are also a lot of misconceptions about forests. Teaching our campers about forest fires is a classic Eco-Fun example. Most of the campers see forest fires as just bad. But once we take campers into the woods and teach them to recognize different stages of forest succession, when they see new plants and how new trees grow after a forest fire, they start to see the forest ecosystem differently.

Making learning fun means more learning

At Evans Lake, we think one of the best ways to learn is by having fun and getting your hands dirty. That’s the “fun” in “Eco Fun.” We take campers into the forest to work on rehabilitating streams, building shelters, reducing erosion, helping with animal conservation, and general forest management.

Eco Fun is also about making a big effort to get the campers to see how the natural world is something we should really value over all the stuff that we buy and obsess about. We ask our campers not to bring electronics with them so they can be in the moment and fully experience everything the great outdoors has to offer.

From camper to camp leader

This summer was my tenth year at the Evans Lake, which is 15 kilometres north of Squamish, B.C. The camp is on a beautiful mountain lake surrounded by forest. I started as a camper and worked my way to becoming a camp leader.

In the summer of 2020, I hope to be back and become an Outdoor Adventure Kamp (OAK) instructor for youth aged 13 to 16. The OAK program is all about inspiring and enabling the next generation of backcountry explorers and weekend warriors to get out hiking and paddling. It would be cool to add that to my work experience.

My ultimate goal is to translate my love of the outdoors into a career as an environmental lawyer. For now, I’m deferring my acceptance to do a double major in political science and environmental studies at the University of Victoria until 2021. I’m spending part of 2020 travelling in Asia and teaching skiing in Japan before returning to Evans Lake this summer.

PLT Canada’s Green Jobs program is supported in large part by our employer networks at the Canadian Parks Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.


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