Green Job spotlight: Syd Welsh, Environmental Educator, Galiano Conservancy Association
“After spending a whole day in the forest, these kids leave with a real idea of what forest restoration looks like,” says Syd Welsh. “Giving them a positive experience helps counter a lot of the negativity about the environment. It’s easy to think that our problems are too big to fix.”
Syd spent the summer working outdoors as an Environmental Educator for the Galiano Conservancy Association. Its mission is to preserve, protect, and enhance the quality of the human and natural environment on Galiano Island, which is one of the Southern Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.
Syd’s responsibilities centered on educating youth, but she also found herself doing graphic design, writing grant applications, blogging, and using social media. “My Green Job was an awesome way to get experience and take on more responsibilities,” Syd says.
Galiano Island boasts a huge variety of animals and plants. It’s also on an important flight path for migrating birds. The island hosts hundreds of bird species, including eagles, cormorants, and herons. Orcas, seals, otters, and sea lions are just some of the iconic species that are spotted regularly offshore.
This idyllic island setting is like a living, breathing classroom for students primarily in grades five through 12. The Galiano Conservancy also facilitates field schools for university-level classes, with content provided through a collaboration between professors and conservancy staff.
Overnight programs, like the Forest Forensics Restoration Field School, are aimed at high school students. The forest forensics program is a three-day, two-night experience that focuses on how to restore an ecosystem to its flourishing potential. Students learn the skills required to make a forest healthy again—through hands-on forest mapping, surveying and orienteering. A detailed teaching guide is provided.
“Just being in places that they are actually learning about almost always means we engage kids right away. I never really encountered any problems getting their attention,” Syd says. “Every time I was with a group in the forest, it was easy to forget I was actually at work.”
Syd also relied on creative approaches to foster student engagement. Asking students to use a TED Talk format or rapping about their findings in presentations made for a fun learning experience.
“I remember being a mess in high school when I thought about the environment. It’s easy to get depressed and feel burned out, but if you give students a connection to the land and have some fun too, you can connect with a worldview that’s more hopeful,” Syd says.
A Toronto native who starting camping with her dad at two-years-old, Syd is planning to fuel her passion for the outdoors and education on her future career path. “At the conservancy, I got to work with a team of educators and learned a lot by watching them. My experience also showed me there are paths to becoming an educator outside the classroom,” Syd says.
This fall, Syd returned to the University of Victoria, where she is in her third year of the environmental studies program. But she is already hoping to land her next Green Job in the summer of 2020, and she has some advice for other students who share her passion.
“Take on as much responsibility as you can. Ask for feedback early on instead of waiting for direction, and don’t be afraid to have courageous conversations. I was lucky to able to work directly with the executive director of the conservancy, and I was given the chance to share my opinions.”
Syd’s Green Job with the Galiano Conservancy Association, like all others funded through Project Learning Tree Canada’s (PLT Canada) Green Jobs program, is supported in large part by strong employer networks at the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Canadian Parks Council.