Welcome to ClearwaterKids.org, home of Potato the Chicken. Here, you will find a host of interactive learning tools to help your kids get excited about nature, the environment, fresh food and dirty hands. Though this online platform, which explores the real Clearwater Farm in Georgina, requires a computer and an Internet connection, it is simply a stepping stone to encourage children to get outdoors and explore the natural world around them on their terms. That is, after all, what Clearwater Farm is all about.
ClearwaterKids.org explores what nature can do for kids, and what kids can do for nature. It allows kids to experience the magic of Clearwater Farm remotely for those times when they are unable to physically be there. “Obviously Clearwater Farm is a wonderful place to visit, but if you can’t get here in person, you can still experience what the farm is doing,” says Annabel Slaight, founding chair of the Ontario Water Centre. “Even though this content is available online, we really don’t want kids spending their entire time in front of their device. Everything we do is aimed at trying to get them outside and into nature; to get them connecting with nature as they would if they were here on the farm with us.”
Clearwater Farm, the flagship initiative of the Ontario Water Centre, is an education farm which aims to demonstrate through interaction the concept of living in harmony with the environment. In addition to producing wonderful, organic food, farming at Clearwater Farm follows methodologies (officially called regenerative agriculture) which are environmentally mindful, and are carried out in a way that support the environment and the health of nearby Lake Simcoe. “We are very mindful of the water we use and how it is used,” says Annabel, whose passion for the environment is rooted in a childhood spent on the shores of this iconic Canadian lake. “Obviously we don’t use pesticides and fertilizer, for example. And there are many steps being taken to ensure that pollinators have a healthy place to ‘bee.’”
When creating ClearwaterKids.org, Annabel and her colleagues determined that in order to truly engage kids and pique their interest, any website that was to accompany the real-life Clearwater Farm would have to be interactive. “With some research in hand, we fell upon the idea of taking the actual Clearwater Farm and turning it into an online interactive scavenger hunt where kids can go to the online versions of various locations on the farm and find things,” she explains. “A recent activity which we are getting ready to put up is a game at the picnic pavilion called ‘The Ants Go Marching.’ It is a whole little learning experience where kids can learn about ants.” Other examples of the website’s activities include recipes for picnics, activities to learn about the science of growing food, and opportunities to learn about chicken-related facts in the chicken coop through a video and a game.
Though ClearwaterKids.org does predate the advent of COVID-19, its timing is fortuitous. The website has been in the works for the past year and was launched on Earth Day. With COVID-19 restrictions making media consumption not only more desired, but more necessary in some cases, additional content has been created to help support this need.
It is noteworthy that the programs and activities delivered through ClearwaterKids.org, as well as at Clearwater Farm, are not prescriptive. They are not lesson plans. Instead, participants are encouraged to follow their own interest, and programming is built around what they are interested in. “Their own curiosity is being stimulated and they can try what they want,” Annabel explains. “Maybe what they try will work and maybe it won’t. It’s about discovery. They discover something which opens a door in their minds to wonder what and why. Then our educators work with them to support that wondering.”
Clearwater Farm truly is a special place. It is the hope of staff that it will become a self-sustaining venture which not only gets the community involved, but also comes to contribute to the economic well-being of the community of Georgina in a meaningful way. The farm only dates back to 2016 when the organization received the lease for the property, but since then it has come a long way and is beginning to hit its stride.
ClearwaterKids.org is just another turn of the wheel of environmental awareness as the farm and its online interactive components are truly coming to mean something to its visitors. “That’s an amazing, wonderful thing,” Annabel states proudly. We at York Durham Headwaters couldn’t agree more.
Watch Brother Wolf’s educational videos and learn about nature as well as learn activities like painting with found objects outside, making bubble wands, ring toss and so much more!
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Story by Katherine Ryalen