I've seen magic happen: the moment when a young, high-anxiety kid spends quality time outdoors, and then transforms into their truer self. Their reconnection with the outdoors proves our innate affinity with nature and why living without it can be psychologically damaging. Moments spent in nature can enhance creativity, physical health, mental health, concentration, cognitive development and moral development. And the bonus: developing a deep desire to protect what we have left.

photoLuke Ehler

Several youth programs across Canada set out to create “wilderness engagement.” Some are historic, such as the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides. Others are outdoor education programs embedded into schools’ curriculums. And then there are others that, for some reason, seem to get less notice—but shouldn’t.

Here are three lesser-known youth programs you should know about (I volunteer my time to help out):

photoProject Canoe

Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Canadian Conservation Corps

This three-part program presents an exciting opportunity for youth ages 18 to 30 to learn, grow and experience Canada in a unique way while having a real impact on conservation. Your adventure begins with an exciting wilderness journey followed by a field placement with national leaders in conservation. You will then develop your own idea into a meaningful service project in your home community.

For more information on CWF Canadian Conservation Corps: cwf-fcf.org

Check out my interview with alumni of the program, Leslee Brown:



Canadian Wildlife Federation’s WILD Outside

This is a brand-new outdoor education leadership initiative from the Canadian Wildlife Federation (WILD Outside). The WILD Outside recruits youth ages 15 to 18. The concept is to have local leaders, hired by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, spread out across various Canadian cities. They gather youth into groups and create no-cost programs that give an opportunity to go on amazing outdoor adventures with these local leaders and give back to their communities through conservation-based service projects, all while learning more about themselves and connecting with the wild spaces. And the big bonus (according to my 15-year-old daughter) is that the youth involved gain major volunteer hours they need for high school.

For more information on CWF WILD Outside: cwf-fcf.org

Check out my interview with Luke Ehler, one of the coordinators for the WILD Outside program. He’s also an alumni of the Canadian Wildlife Federation Canadian Conservation Corps:



Quetico Foundation’s Summer Student Research Program, Biology Internship & Project Canoe

The Quetico Foundation’s mission is dedicated to the protection of wilderness, with a focus on Quetico Wilderness Provincial Park. They also make sure the youth get involved. The Quetico Foundation hires university and high school students each summer to conduct research in Quetico Park. Directed by scientists and supervised by experienced team leaders, participants learn wilderness skills, contribute to research and bond with teammates. The information collected contributes significantly to the bank of wilderness ecology field data. They also help fund Toronto-based students to go on a canoe trip in Quetico. Project Canoe is a program that focuses on youth that would otherwise be unable to participate due to barriers they face in their lives (social, emotional, behavioural, learning or economic barriers).

For more information on Quetico Foundation’s Youth programs: queticofoundation.org

For more information on Project Canoe: canoe.org

Check out my interview with Luiza Moczarski of the Quetico Foundation: