Rachel Whitehouse and Sarah Desrosiers, leaders of the Merritt NatureKids chapter for the past three years, have come together to launch a new program, the Mariposa Nature Academy, which will be hosting a spring break camp from March 28 to April 1. 

NatureKids BC is a provincial organization with roughly 30 clubs across the province. 

“It’s a not for profit organization that aims to help get kids and families out in nature,” explained Whitehouse.   
NatureKids caters to children five to twelve years old and their families, encouraging them to get outside and connect with nature. The Merritt chapter meets once per month for Explorer Days, where different mentors will speak on a subject they are familiar with. If no mentor is available, the group will go for a hike or do a nature craft. 

Whitehouse says that the club has grown significantly in the past three years, and particularly in the last year as families were looking for something fun to do that was COVID safe. This success led Whitehouse and Desrosiers to consider other ways they could educate children and get them interested in the outdoors. 

“We wanted to expand past what we could do with our NatureKids hats on, so we’ve started a new program called the Mariposa Nature Academy, and that’s what we’re running this spring break camp through,” said Whitehouse. 

Throughout the course of the five day camp during the second week of spring break, children will explore a different nature based theme. 

“We use nature based games that are really great for physical, mental and emotional self expression, and imagination,” said Whitehouse. 

“We learn about edible and medicinal plants that are in the area, so a really great life skill, knowing what we can eat in our area, and teaching this plant ID is also really great for developing pattern recognition and intuition in young kids.”

Participants will also learn about mammals and wildlife tracking, which helps to develop whole brain intelligence and concentration, and will also learn about forest ecology, the interconnectedness of everything in nature, the basis of ecological principles and survival skills including shelter building and tool use. 

“These are really important life skills for kids to start building,” said Whitehouse. 

Every day children will also do a different nature based craft to foster creativity, and also take part in activities with a local focus, such as learning about flooding and erosion, and how to bioengineer a destroyed stream bank. 

“We try to do things that are important to our area,” said Whitehouse. 

Both Whitehouse and Desrosiers have the know-how to back up what they teach.

Whitehouse has a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental and Conservation Sciences and a Master’s degree in Science. She has worked in environmental consulting and range agrology for the Ministry of Forests for the past four years.

Desrosiers also works for the Ministry of Forests, has a Bachelor of Science in Conservation and Natural Resources, and a Master of Science, both from UBC. She has worked as a park interpreter for BC Parks and spent three years in Nunavut as a Land-Based program coordinator, where she developed and delivered a week-long outdoor education program for students in grades ten to twelve. 

The spring break camp, which is open to children aged six to twelve, has only one space left, but don’t worry if your child misses out on this opportunity as Whitehouse and Desrosiers hope to offer a summer camp and other programs in future. 

“We’re hoping to do a weekly nature school this would be kind of catered to homeschool families who want to have one day a week where they can bring their kids to us and do school in more of a group setting but with a focus on nature and trying to teach the different core curriculum from the BC education system but its a nature focus.”

For more information about this or future camps, reach out to mariposenatureacademy@gmail.com