“I love being outside and I love talking to people. Helping someone understand the importance of bees and butterflies or how to help an endangered turtle safely cross the road is an awesome feeling,” says Ellie Anderson, an Education and Outreach Technician with Lower Trent Region Conservation.
Her work encourages environmental stewardship among area kids, youth, and adults. Ellie designs and delivers programming ranging from games focused on conserving pollinators to displays and booths at local events.
Ellie and her colleagues work across a 2,070-square-kilometre watershed between Toronto and Kingston that drains into Lake Ontario. Over this spring and summer, Ellie is engaging hundreds of people one-to-one and in groups on a range of environmental issues. In just two days at the Tri-County Children’s Water Festival, in late May, Ellie was part of a team that worked with 1,000 grade four students over two days.
One of her environmental education games involves dividing kids into teams, with one team using syringes to extract nectar from flowers, while the other team uses cotton balls to collect pollen. “Pollinators provide one out of every three bites of food we eat. That’s just one big reason why it’s so important to help bees, butterflies, and other pollinators thrive,” says Ellie. “Breaking it down into a game is a great way for kids to become champions for pollinators.”
Engaging kids in a fun way allows Ellie to motivate them to talk to their parents and other adults about preserving flowers and the local ecosystems that support pollinators. “It might start with a kid asking their dad not to mow flowers and let a lawn become more pollinator friendly, and hopefully it progresses to a deeper understanding of how ecosystems work.”
To take things to the next level, Ellie developed a game using wooden Jenga blocks. Jenga players take turns removing one block at a time from a tower built of 54 blocks. Each block that’s removed is placed on top of the tower, creating a progressively taller and more unstable structure.
Ellie had an idea to divide the blocks into four categories: food, health, habitat, and water. When the players pull one block out, they see how the whole ecosystem, in this case a Jenga tower, is affected.
The opportunity to develop these kinds of curriculum tools was a big reason Ellie was thrilled to land her Green Job. She is heading into her final year of a degree in sport and physical education at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, and plans to become a teacher.
“My Green Job has given me so much hands – on experience about how to keep kids engaged and motivated. It has also built up my knowledge about environmental issues and how to relate them to kids,” Ellie says.
She encourages other youth to consider the Green Jobs initiative as a potential steppingstone to a rewarding career: “I would tell other youth to look at Green Jobs because there are so many opportunities to try. Don’t be afraid to try anything and everything.”