WRN Kids – Great Canadian Shoreline Clean Up

Creek Clean Up

On Saturday April 29, 2023, we went to Bechtel Park in Waterloo to pick up trash along the Laurel Creek. It was raining off and on! It was a small group of us. We followed the trail. We found some bones from an animal on the trail. I think it was some kind of bird that something tried to eat it. There were lots of tall trees around us. We found an empty nest for a flying squirrel. There wasn’t much garbage on the trail but when got to the one part of the creek, there was a lot of trash!

The before picture
Mostly done

We had garbage pickers, gloves and pails. There were lots of small pieces of styrofoam and plastic. There were lots of Nerf darts. My favourite find was a big dice made of foam. Someone found a Barbie wearing a swim suit.

We picked up four bags of trash. It is a good thing to do because we are helping the environment.

Reported by Hunter

A15.5 kg haul of trash

WRN Kids – Predator Prey Game

Predator Prey Game

On Saturday April 15, 2023, we met at Auburn Park in Waterloo to play Predator vs Prey.

First, we played a game of “cross the creek”. There was a grid made in the sand and we had to pick squares in order to cross the creek. There was a pattern that we had to figure out. If you picked the wrong square, you had to start over again. You got to cross the creek if you pick the right squares or if you could jump far enough.

Creek crossing game
Picking up our clothes pin lives

Next, we played Predator vs Prey in the forest. All the kids had clothes pins as their lives. Some kids were worms (prey) and could only eat plants. Some kids were mice and could eat worms and plants. Two of us were foxes. We could eat worms and mice. If you got caught by a predator you had to give up one of your clothes pins. There were stations for plants, if you went there, you got a piece of green tape. There were stations for water, if you went there, you got a blue clothes pin. You could get more clothes pins by collecting three of either pieces of tape and/or blue clothes pins. If you ran out of clothes pins you died and were out of the game.

 It was a lot of running to catch the worms and mice!! We also added a cat, a fisherman and someone was rabies in order to make it harder. This game showed us how hard it is to survive as an animal. Either you are running to get food or running away from becoming food.

Snack Time

I had a lot of fun!

Reported by Hunter

The chase is on
Gray Treefrog

WRN Teens – 1st Place in Regional Envirothon!

Envirothon Plaque

Congratulations WRN Teens – 1st Place in Regional Envirothon!

On April 26, our first-ever WRN Teens Envirothon Team participated in the Grand River Regional Envirothon Competition at the University of Waterloo, coached by adult volunteer Graeme Smith. They competed against teams from high school who have done this for several years.

We were proud that they participated; we were super proud that they collaborated so well; then, the big news…WRN Teens Envirothon Team won FIRST PLACE!

Teams had to complete four outdoor practical and written tests on key environmental concepts related to aquatic ecosystems, wildlife, soil, and forestry. They also received a scenario about designing a town to be built near habitats with endangered species. They had one hour to plan before presenting their town plan to a panel of judges. The WRN Teens plan was so well thought out and portrayed a good balance between nature and development needs. The organizers and judges were impressed!

CONGRATULATIONS to Teens Brynn, Jenny, Matt, Bea, and Eva, coach Graeme Smith, and WRN Teens Organizer Marg Paré!

By the way, two of the WRN team members — who helped the team win first place! — aren’t in high school yet!

Envirothon participant:
“I had a great experience participating on the WRN Teens Envirothon Team alongside Bea, Eva, Jenny, and Matt. I enjoyed learning and trying new things in aquatics, soil, wildlife, and forestry. It was my first time using a secchi disk and a soil auger. We used the secchi disk to measure turbidity levels in Laurel Creek and the soil auger to take soil samples to measure the depth of the A Horizon. It was also fun being at the University of Waterloo’s Ecology Lab for both the training and competition days. The competition day was really exciting and the group presentation was my favourite part. Thank you so much Graeme for coaching us and to Marg and Linda for cheering us on! It was a big surprise hearing that we’d won and our team has a spot in the provincials. I definitely want to participate next year!”

Envirothon Plaque

Forests Ontario sponsors regional events and the provincial competition in Ontario which are part of the National Conservation Foundation Envirothon. WRN Teens registration was sponsored by the WRN Youth Fund.

Congratulations WRN Teens, and good luck in the upcoming provincial virtual competition at the end of May!

WRN Kids – Winter Fun

Winter Fun

On Saturday, February 25, 2023, WRN Kids met at Laurel Creek Conservation Area.

What was the topic today?
Building a Shelter & Learning about the Pine Beetle.

What activities did we do?
We went hiking, fed the Chickadees, looked for Pine Shoot Beetles and saw their galleries, and we built a shelter from sheets and rope tied to trees and sticks.

Dinner is served
Do you recommend this restaurant?

Why is it important to learn about?
It’s important to learn how to make a shelter in case you lose your map or get lost, so you can keep warm.

What was the weather like?
It was snowy, cold, and a bit windy.

Under Construction
Home Sweet Home

How did you feel when you did the activities?
I felt very happy about the Chickadees landing on my hand for the first time. I enjoyed looking under the bark for the beetles. I had fun building the shelter but felt a bit nervous that it might fall.

Pine Shoot Beetle galleries

What did you like best about today?
My favourite parts were the Chickadees and building the shelter.

Reported by Jack

Taking a closer look at the Pine Shoot Beetle galleries
What lives here?

WRN Kids – Owl Prowl

Owl Prowl at Huron Natural Area

Thursday February 16, 2023

The WR Nature Kids met at Huron Natural Area at night for an owl prowl led by Fraser Gibson.

Fraser told us many interesting things about owls. Owls eat small animals like squirrels, mice and voles. Great Horned owls will also eat smaller birds (including other owls!) as well as skunks. Owls eat small animals whole and later cough up the fur and bones that have been squeezed together in the bird’s gizzard. It comes out in a pellet shape that can sometimes be found on the ground. Owls can turn their heads almost all the way around to see and hear their prey. Fraser showed us an owl skull, an owl pellet and feather.


We carefully walked along an icy trail to three different areas where Fraser played the call of the Screech Owl on his phone. The Screech Owl makes a trilling sound. We stood quietly listening for a reply but we didn’t hear one. After calling the Screech Owl a many times, Fraser tried calling the Great Horned owl by making hooting sounds. We didn’t hear an owl call back. We all tried the Great Horned owl call and sounded like a choir of owls! The weather was a bit windy and it was starting to rain and these are not good conditions to hear owls.

Owls are getting ready to nest at this time of year. They call out to defend their territory, to find a mate and to keep track of each other. Even though we didn’t hear any owls, it was fun to be outside in the dark in the woods. Being quiet and standing still makes you aware of other noises like the wind blowing through the trees and your snowpants and boots if you move even a tiny bit!

Thank you Fraser for leading us!

submitted by Rachelle Swayze

WRN Kids – Christmas Bird Count for Kids 2022

Christmas Bird Count for Kids 2022

rare Charitable Research Reserve
Saturday, January 14, 2023

On January 14, we went to RARE in Cambridge to take part in their Christmas bird count event for kids. It was a cold but sunny day. We each had binoculars to look for birds. We went for a hike to the Grand River to look for birds. The snow was pretty on the trees.

The first birds we saw were some Eastern Bluebirds and Goldfinches in the trees. We could also hear some Chickadees.

When we got to the river, we could see some mallard ducks and Canadian geese. With our binoculars we could see some Buffleheads and Goldeneye swimming on the river. It was really cool to see.

It is important to learn about birds in our area. When we got back, we had some hot chocolate to warm up. There was a taxidermy of a Snow Owl. It was really neat to see, they look so cool.

Reported by Hunter

Mill Race Trail, St. Jacobs – January 2023

On Wednesday January 11, 2023, David Gascoigne and Miriam Bauman led a group along the Mill Race Trail, St. Jacobs. Here are a few photos from that walk.

On Saturday January 14, 2023, a smaller second group repeated that walk. Here are a few photos from that day.

For the full report on the walk with more photos, see David’s blog at WRN Outing to the Mill Race, St. Jacobs, ON.

WRN Kids – Trail Trimming at SpruceHaven

Trail Trimming at SpruceHaven

Saturday, December 17, 2022

On Saturday December 17, WRN Kids met with WRN Teens at SpruceHaven to do some trail work. We trimmed tree branches and plants that were hanging over the trails. It was interesting to notice the different textures, colours and flexibility of the branches and plants we cut.


The weather was chilly and overcast but we were dressed warmly. There was a bit of snow on the ground and we saw some animal tracks. We were undecided if they were from a muskrat or possum. It was little bit windy and we could hear the faint sound of the ice coating the branches crack.

It was great to be outside and with other people who value nature and the special place that SpruceHaven is.

We trimmed many branches and took them home to make holiday decorations.

Thank you SpruceHaven and WRN Teens for sharing this outing with us!

submitted by Rachelle

WRN Kids – Archaeology at rare

Archaeology at rare

Saturday, November 26, 2022

My favorite nature discovery this term was a visit to a place where people had been digging for artifacts from early North America, especially focusing on the First Nations people that had once lived there. An archaeologist taught us a lot of interesting things.

The best thing I liked about that day was that the archaeologist showed us how the early First Nations people used certain tools to make knives and arrowheads. He used a piece of cloth which he put on his knee. Then he put a chunk of black glassy rock which was called obsidian on that piece of cloth. He later used a lot of different tools to hack it. He said that these people used the bottom part of the antler of a moose to hack at the rock. When he pounded, the rock turned into a little flakes.

Knapping obsidian with a bone tool
That's one sharp edge!

Here is what he said. When you apply downward striking pressure onto a rock, it’ll always flake off at a certain angle, and if you flake on both sides, then it’ll eventually lead to a sharp edge in the middle. In the present people would use short wooden handles with copper knobs at the ends to knock off the flakes. And the flakes that were knocked off could be used as arrowheads while the finished products could be used as a knife. That way a chunk of rock could make a bunch of arrowhead flakes and a knife at the same time.
I think it was very interesting and the archaeologist even let me take one of those flakes back home. I noticed that the stone had a smooth texture and flaked very easily. What made it extra interesting was that the stone always flicked at the exact same angle somewhere close to 45°. I suppose that if flaked at that certain angle all the time, then people would be able to determine what angle they wanted to make it into by hitting it in different directions.

During our walk they also showed us a lot of interesting sites in which they had found artifacts. There was a little knoll by the side of the Grand River where they had found some flakes. What made it interesting was it wasn’t an encampment or anything like that but it seemed to be that someone had once sat there and made something like an arrowhead.

Trumpeter Swans on the Grand River

I think being a archaeologist would be quite fun because you can use your imagination a lot. Sometimes the evidence that people left behind them isn’t enough to construct exactly what they were doing, so you have to use your own imagination to reconstruct what was happening. That makes archeology really fun.

Reported by Joshua

Finding the fossils in the slit barn wall
Checking out the cliff face
Eastern Garter Snake

Holiday Outing

On Monday evening, December 5, 2022, twenty WRN members met to walk through the light display at Waterloo Park. This was definitely a little different than our usual December social event.

WRN Teens – Summer/Fall 2022 Report

(This article appeared in the Winter 2022 Heron newsletter)

 This summer and fall, members of the WRN Teens continued to meet every Saturday morning at SpruceHaven Farm in St. Agatha. The land is made up of many different native environments including woodland, bog, pond, and grassland. It is exciting to observe all the changes in the environment from week to week, month to month, and season to season.

WRN Teens at SpruceHaven after monitoring salamanders and tree frogs

WRN Teens adult volunteers (Linda Dutka, Michelle MacMillan, Graeme Smith, Thelma Beaubien, and Marg Paré) accompanied us on these activities at SpruceHaven. We checked on salamander boards and frog tubes and in the spring and summer we monitored nest boxes. This year we found Red-backed Salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) under the salamander boards and Grey Treefrogs (Dryophytes versicolor) in the frog tubes. (Thanks to Levi Moore for setting up frog monitoring for us and being our consultant.) Nest box residents included Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) and Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor). At the end of the summer when things quietened down a bit we helped by doing some maintenance on both the nest boxes and salamander boards. 

WRN Teens river study at rare Charitable Research Reserve

During the summer, Graeme, Michelle, and Thelma helped out by leading some additional Saturday morning activities at SpruceHaven. In July, Graeme led a tree measurement activity and Michelle led a benthic pond study. Thelma introduced us to some of the many butterflies that call Ontario home.

 On some Saturday afternoons we also had work projects and learning projects led by community partners and nature experts. In the summer, these activities included a Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) removal at White Cedar Forest in Waterloo led by Linda Sloka, a former Teens parent, and an Ecology Hike led by Dr. Cory Wallace at Huron Natural Area in Kitchener.
Gardening at Forest Heights Pollinator Patch
Mushroom Hike at Homer Watson Park
 So far this fall, we attended a birding hike with David Gascoigne at Riverside Park in Cambridge, worked at a pollinator garden with Giselle Carter at Forest Heights in Kitchener, participated in a Mushroom Hike with Janet Ozaruk at Homer Watson Park in Kitchener, and did a Benthic Invertebrates Study in the Grand River at “rare” Charitable Research Reserve with Michelle MacMillan. We’re also happy to welcome a new adult volunteer, Philip Pyatt.
We’ve got a bunch more activities coming up in the fall, which I’m sure everyone is excited about!
By Brynn Roderick
Photos: Marg Paré

WRN Kids – Birding Hike

Birding Hike

On Saturday, October 29, 2022, WRN Kids went on a birding hike along the Mill Race Trail.

Where was the outing today?
Three Bridges Road, Woolwich.

How was the weather?
Sunny and cool.

Simulated worms in mud
Mill Race Trail

What did we do?
We used different tools as beaks to see which work better with different types of pretend food. My favourite pretend food was the nectar that was made out of water.

Pick a bird beak utensil
Simulated water plants

What did you learn?
I learnt that chickadees are friendly because they eat seeds from your hands.


Reported by Jack

Waiting for Chickadees

What was your favourite part?
My favourite part was feeding the ducks.

Beaver Dam, Mill Race Trail