by Kent Lewarne
What do you get if you take over a hundred students from across Canada, send them to Ottawa for a week, attend Canadian Ag Day and challenge them with a myriad of agriculture activities and field trips? You would get the highlight of 2018 for this NFL Regional Manager. It was an honour to attend Canadian Ag Day and meet so many great people and hear so many great speakers, including a keynote from Bob MacDonald! As good as Canadian Ag Day was, the following day would be better. This was the day that the students from across Canada came together to work with NFL Canada on soil testing and discussions on sustainable agriculture. These students were amazing ambassadors for their schools and provinces, sharing the ag stories from their respective areas on Food and Tech – the theme for the week at Encounters with Canada.
The year kicked off with a full day of soils training with Frontier School Division teachers who were gearing up for this year’s envirothon program. These keen educators got their hands “dirty” and left with a greater appreciation of the soils in Manitoba. The Fort Gary Hotel in Winnipeg was the site for the Red River Basin Commission Forum in late January. The event highlighted the work happening in the Red River Valley. Presentation of best management practices included the benefits of 4R Nutrient Stewardship!
Encounters with Canada (see above) was a highlight in February and for 2018 but some amazing connections were made with teachers at several other events. Several students and teachers from Manitoba made their way to Grand Forks North Dakota to attend the International Water Institute’s Riverwatch Forum. Monitoring the water does give a pretty good indication of how well we are managing the surrounding land. The students at this forum made some incredible presentation on projects happening in their hometowns. Professional development events in Calgary and Edmonton host literally thousands of teachers. Our display was bustling with teachers stopping in to see NFL resources and learn about our Garden Grant program. We heard some amazing stories of things happening in Alberta. February finished up with some presentations for I Love to Read month and a day at Brandon University working with teacher candidates on engaging activities to use in their classrooms.
March began with school visits for Canadian Ag Literacy Month. In conjunction with AITC-MB school visits included reading a new ag related book and an ag activity. NFL Chair, Bob Adamson was a welcome co presenter at a new activity at Elmwood School. Grade 7 and 8 students in a unique science class learned about the soil texture triangle and then used samples of sand and clay to make their own soil to create a “lawn” for a Structure’s project they were working on in class.
Agro-Ecology Day in Carman would be a highlight in April. Grade 10 students from across Prairie Rose School Division descend upon the Ian Morrison Research Facility (University of Manitoba) in Carman and rotate through a variety of ag stations. It is a great day for students and a great day to catch up with so many of our friends from Manitoba Agriculture who lead some incredible sessions. The Regional Envirothon is an annual highlight in April as teams of students tackle a variety of environmental topics through an intense trails test and oral presentation. And finally, NFL has been pleased to partner with Manitoba Agriculture and Fort Whyte Alive on hosting the “Dig It Soil Day”. Much like Agro Ecology Day, students rotate through six stations all related to Soil and Sustainable Agriculture. This event is open to all schools and Fort Whyte Alive does a great job recruiting keen groups!
Journey 2050 kicked of May’s activities. Two keen groups of teachers at the Riding the Wave Conference in Gimli learned about sustainable agriculture and gameification with this one of kind game developed by Nutien. Site visits to schools in Baldur, Glenboro and Dauphin were exciting and well received despite a cooler spring. The highlight though for May would be my first trip to Churchill Manitoba for the Manitoba Forestry Provincial Envirothon event. All the great learning aside, this is a unique site to see and was a place on my bucket list.
June is always a busy month with site visits and water festivals. Visits to Sanford, Baldur, Crystal City along with the Binney Water Festival has many students outside working with soil and water activities. As the school year winds down, it was time to regroup from a fantastic spring season.
Although summer is usually quiet, this summer did have one highlight. It was an honor to be asked to present to the Agriculture and Agri-food Canada Research Roundtable in Brandon. There were some super presentation the research happening in the Lake Winnipeg Basin and many great connections were made at this event. It was a pleasure to share with the academia the work that we are doing on the K-12 Education side.
Fall 2018 was by far the busiest fall this regional manager has had. In the span of a month I was able to see over 900 students and work with some great teachers and partners delivering presentations. Fall events included a number of school visits and three water festivals.
The following month was dedicated to Professional Development events. This year’s EECOM (Environmental Educators Communication Network) Conference was held in beautiful Cranbrook BC at the site of a former residential school. NFL’s display and presentation was very well received by the over 400 delegates in attendance, all environmental educators. The next three weeks were dedicated to workshops in Calgary, Saskatoon and Chatham ONT. Hosted and sponsored by Corteva Agriscience, these learning garden workshops provided excellent information to attendees and provided some valuable connections to local experts invited to present.
The year rounded out with school visits to Pilot Mound and another Enviorhton Training Day hosted by Frontier School Division. This year’s training event, full to capacity, indicates the importance of environmental awareness – the theme of the upcoming Envirothon season. A webinar organized by the Green Teacher was definitely a highlight. This webinar was a follow up to an article that appearing earlier in the Green Teacher Magazine. The article and webinar focused on “Feeding the Plants to Fee the World”. The annual Manitoba Conservation District Conference is always a great place to networks with some groups and this year was no different. The final event for 2018 was thanks to the Assiniboine River Basin Iniative. Through this connection made at the MCDA conference, NFL representatives, Ray Cochrane and myself were invited to be a part of the forum discussing Indigenous Engagement. The facilitator for the day was fabulous and I left with a much greater appreciation of the workings of the the Treaties and the Indian Act.
To summarize, 2018 was a fantastic year. The students, teachers and professionals that we are so fortunate to work with make each and every year fulfilling and rewarding. I look forward to working with these folks again in 2019 and meeting more fantastic people.
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