November 24 2018 — The Night Sky

WRN Kids was a bit different this month; we met in the evening to learn about the night sky! Sadly, the sky was overcast so our program was all indoors. The Kids were still excited to learn about astronomy and had really great questions.
Ian, one of the amazing GRCA naturalists, showed us the night sky on his computer! With software that “sees” through the clouds, we used the computer as a telescope to see constelllations and planets, as a space ship to see the view if we landed on the moon or Mars, and even as a time travel machine as we sped up the changes in the sky.
Afterwards, several volunteers from the KW branch of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada showed us their toys! We couldn’t see the sky through their several telescopes but we did get to touch them and learn a bit about how they work. After chatting with the amateur astronomers, the Kids took home sky charts to try out on a clearer night.

Thanks to Ian, the RASC volunteers, all the Kids volunteers, Mary-Anne from Laurel Creek who organized our evening — and to the wonderful Kids and their families. We all learned lots!

WRN Kids won’t be meeting in December. Our next activity is the Christmas Bird Count for Kids at ‘rare’ on January 12. See you there!



October 27, 2018 – Water at Laurel Creek Nature Centre

We started Waterloo Region Nature Kids this time by meeting the friendly turtles who live inside at the nature centre. We learned about Painted Turtles, Snapping Turtles, and Red-eared Sliders — and which are supposed to be here and which are not. Garrison, one of the wonderful LCNC naturalists, told us amazing stuff about their shells, how they survive, and why they are endangered.

We usually explore nature NEAR Laurel Creek but this time, we were IN Laurel Creek! It was cold, windy and a bit rainy but we got our rubber boots on, brought the nets and buckets, and got right into the creek to see who lives there — and could still be found this late in the fall.

We were excited to catch fish, some very cool bugs, some strange creatures in early stages of development, tiny red Blood Worms — and a Northern Leopard Frog! (We hope it wasn’t the same one we caught last month during our bug hunt!) Our brave Kids and parents tolerated the cold and wet to share their discoveries and carefully return them to the creek. Happy overwintering, water creatures!

Thanks to naturalist Garrison; volunteers Linda, Giselle, Zack and Linden; and to all the Kids families! If your family has signed up for WRN Kids, don’t forget that next time, we’ll meet in the evening to look at the stars!

Marg Paré
WRN Kids coordinator

September 29, 2018 – Monarch Migration and Bug Hunt

It was very exciting to see many families back for another year of WRN Kids — and lots of new families, too!  We’ve got some wonderful learning experiences lined up for 2018-19 for these Kids aged 7 to 12 who bring an adult along once a month to Laurel Creek Nature Centre.
We had a guest speaker to start our year.  Thanks to Mary-Anne for inviting Jeff Grant, a grade 10 student who is a butterfly and moth expert!  Jeff told about how he raises Monarchs in a greenhouse and we learned about their amazing life cycle and incredible migration.
Chris was our GRCA naturalist this time and he sent us out on a kind of hike/board game challenge about Monarch migration.  We followed a trail to find 18 stations where we rolled a die to see if we would lose a Monarch life.  Not everybody survived the treacherous journey!
Next, we went hunting live bugs with nets in the meadow.  And what a collection of creatures we caught!  Many butterflies, caterpillars, ants, beetles… and a frog!
Thanks to the volunteers — Linden, Linda, Pat, Paul, and Giselle — who helped all this happen.  See you next month, Kids!

June 9, 2018 — SpruceHaven

Barn Swallows and More at SpruceHaven Farm
WRN Kids has already wrapped up for the school year as far as regular meetings go but today, a few families came along for one last bonus outing.
We were excited to meet at SpruceHaven Farm in St. Agatha and spend time with David Gascoigne, an amazing and inspiring bird expert.  He showed us the Barn Swallow colony in the barn and explained how volunteers climb a ladder and use a mirror to check the cool nests made of mud.  They record how many eggs are laid and how many baby Barn Swallows hatch.
David ‘borrowed’ a tiny one-day-old Barn Swallow out of a nest just for a minute to show us close up!  (We know normally we should leave baby birds alone but he reassured us that this will not make the parents reject the baby.)


Then, we went to another part of the farm and saw a Eastern Bluebird (a first for several of us) and Tree Swallows.  David knew the Tree Swallows had babies in a nesting box and we got to see one and some of us even held it!  It was 10 days old and looked a lot more grown up than the tiny Barn Swallow.


While we were walking, Maryam saw some foamy stuff on a plant and one of our volunteers, Linda, told her about Spittle Bugs and how to find them in the spit!  Maryam is now an expert because she found several!
We saw lots of other amazing things at SpruceHaven and before we left, we even got gifts!…  great bird swag from David and a baby, native dogwood bush from Sandy.  We want to thank David for showing us around and also Dave Westfall, Sandy Hill and Jamie Hill who kindly allow visitors to come to their farm to learn about nature.


Thanks to all the awesome Kids, families, volunteers and leaders who were part of WRN Kids this year!  Registration is open now for the fall so sign up soon  for another year of nature fun and learning!
Marg Paré
WRN Kids coordinator

May 26, 2018 — Bee Hives

Saturday morning it was lovely to spend time with Waterloo Region Nature Kids. We met at Laurel Creek Nature Centre. Sean McCammon gave a wonderful slide show telling the families all about the honey bee and the hives they have at the nature centre. We then got suited up, and checked it out for ourselves! What a fabulous morning! We felt brave holding a male drone bee even though they don’t have stingers!

We wrapped up the day and our year with a delicious pot luck picnic.  Hope to see everybody back in the fall — and some new Kids too!  (Registration for 2018-19 is open now at  right on our home page.)



For more photos see the Waterloo Region Nature Facebook Page.

April 28, 2018 – Tree Planting

We know WRN Kids are amazing people but this time, they really showed what they are made of — muscle! The Kids worked super hard to help our their favourite place, Laurel Creek Nature Centre. New trees are needed in a few spots at LCNC because of some invasive species being removed and to replace ash trees that had to be cut down.

So, our strong Kids and their adults put in a morning of carrying trees, shovels and buckets, finding the perfect planting spot not too close to other trees, digging a hole, digging the hole bigger, getting the young tree comfortable, filling in and packing down the soil, filling buckets with mulch, carrying buckets, spreading mulch… and starting over! Our best count is that 17 Kids and 17 adults planted 71 cedar, spruce, cottonwood and oak trees.

Check out the photos of brand new trees, and happy, tired faces! Well done, WRN Kids!

March 31, 2018 – Maple Syrup / Traditional Skills

The March 31st meeting of WRN Kids club was sweet! We met at the Sugar Bush near Laurel Creek Nature Centre and had a fabulous morning learning about traditional skills. We found out about maple syrup production from hundreds of years ago when the indigenous people of this area made syrup, through to the methods the early settlers used, and finally to today. We also got to collect sap, and hear some beautiful indigenous drumming and songs.

For a zillion more photos visit the photo album on the WRN Facebook page: At the Maple Sugar Bush.

February 24, 2018 – Owl Prowl

Whoooo whoo who doesn’t love a wonderful owl prowl? Tonight’s Waterloo Region Nature Kids did just that. It began with Garrison giving a short talk about owls and their special adaptations that make them different from other birds. The eyes which give them excellent eyesight to help them see in the dark. The fact that they can rotate their heads quite well to help them see, though not all the way around as some people think. They have fabulous ears to hear their prey. Silent flight is a really special thing about the owl as well! Their talons help them to grip their prey, and the feathers near their talons help to keep their flight silent. The children learned that the owls spit up owl pellets which contain the undigested parts of their prey, the bones and fur. If you look on the ground in the forest you might see these pellets, and you will know that an owl has been there.

Rebecca was also there, and she brought along two stuffed owls for us to look at, the Eastern screech owl (such a little cutester!), and a great horned owl (a regal beauty!).



Next, it was showtime. We went out on the trails in the forest in search of owls. It was a lovely night, not too windy and plenty of moonlight. Garrison used his phone and a speaker to play owl calls. At our first stop, he started with a screech owl. Hmmm, nothing in response. Next up, the call of the great horned owl. And, no response again. Still, it was a lovely walk. The air crisp, we could see our breath, and the pine trees were producing a lovely Christmassy smell.

We had a few similar stops, but as we approached the hemlock trees in the forest, we struck owl gold. We heard a screech owl calling us back! Garrison told us it was a monotrill that we were hearing! Whatever, it was so amazing. There was more than one owl out there. We could hear at least two, maybe more. Some of us caught the ghost of a glimpse of the owls flying over our heads. And some were lucky enough to have seen one sitting in the tree.

All in all, it was a wonderful night. We certainly had a Superb-owl of a night (sorry, I couldn’t resist!). Later, back at the Nature Centre, Garrison confirmed this. He said that in all the years he spent running owl prowls, our night was one of the very best! So many owls. Whhhhhooooo-ray!

Special thanks to Linda for taking charge of the meeting while Marg was away, and to Garrison, Rebecca, and Jotham for leading the event. Finally, thanks to all of the families who attended. It was….a hoot!

Cathi Stewart

January 27, 2018 – Shelter-Building

Our January meeting is always a surprise because we plan for snowy activities but the weather gets the last word. Since another mild spell melted almost all the snow, we did not get to go snowshoeing. We did have a great time, though, building shelters. First, Garrison led a discussion about the best ways to make a shelter that could keep us warm. The Kids were already knowledgeable about this! We all agreed that keeping the shelter small and using insulation were important strategies.

Garrison took us to a great spot not far from the nature centre where there’s open space, a pine plantation and a forest edge. Pairs of families worked together to build a shelter using only a tarp, a rope and dead branches and plant material. After lots of creative problem-solving, six very different shelters were completed. The builders got inside and used a thermometer to see how warm it got inside with the shelter trapping their body heat. It was 6C outside (a little colder with the windchill) and some shelters got as warm as 15C. It was good to know that in a survival situation a well built shelter could make that much difference.

Back near the nature centre, we wrapped up with feeding chickadees from our hands.

Don’t forget that our February meeting will be in the evening, 6 – 8 pm, to prowl for owls!

January 26, 2018 – Christmas Bird Count for Kids 2017



Some of the WRN Kids families were part of the Christmas Bird Count for Kids at rare Charitable Research Reserve. This event was initially scheduled for a Saturday earlier in the month, but the ferocious wind-chill that day resulted in a postponement to a PD day on Friday, January 26, 2018.

They started out at the feeders behind the Eco Centre, where there were lots of birds.


White-breasted Nuthatch

It was a perfect winter’s day, with the temperature hovering near the freezing mark, and everyone enjoyed walking the trails.
Walking the Trails

Walking the Trails



They heard a Northern Cardinal and eventually got some good views of it.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Back at the Eco Centre they gathered to write down their sightings and enjoy coffee and hot chocolate.

For a full report of this event, see David Gascoigne’s blog at Travels With Birds.