Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Going Gemmill

Going Gemmill is a grassroots approach developed in 2008, that emphasizes how a municipal park can become more accessible and fit into existing curriculum taught in local classrooms.  Between Grades 1 and Grade 10 there are approximately one dozen opportunities for a science or social studies topic to be taught within the Gemmill Park environment. Gemmill Park is a municipal park in the town of Almonte in the municipality of Mississippi Mills, Ontario.

These curriculum-based outdoor education lesson modules were developed for use by local educators for the benefit of local children and youth and to the ultimate benefit of the local community as a whole.   It is thought that these site-specific lessons provide an excellent opportunity for ongoing student visits throughout the park and through the seasons; besides meeting curriculum expectations, they will help to foster an ever-increasing appreciation and respect for this tremendous local resource.

Developed a number of years ago, the project was brought into local schools by Nature Works Learning. Thank you to Patricia Larkin for providing the following lesson modules for download from the MVFN site whenever they are needed in the future by interested local educators:

Grade 2 – Life Systems – Growth and Changes in Animals

Grade 4 – Life Systems – Habitats and Communities (Winter)

Grade 7 – Life Systems – Interactions in the Environment

High school:  

Grade 9 – Science – Sustainable Ecosystems

Grade 9 – Geography – Methods of Geographic Inquiry, including orienteering flag

For further information contact: Patricia Larkin, Nature Works Learning, 613 256 5301;


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Young Naturalists registration open for children age 6-11

Young Naturalists registration for children age 6-11

Hello everyone!

We hope you are all having a fantastic summer!

September is just around the corner and it is time to begin the registration process for the fall 2015 session of the MVFN Young Naturalist’s (YN) program. The Young Naturalist sessions are designed to develop and expand the interests of the children in the natural world with the hopes that they may grow to be lifelong naturalists and citizen scientists. During each session YN meets the first Saturday of each month to explore a nature-themed topic.

For children aged 6-11: Young Naturalists meet at the beautiful Mill of Kintail Conservation area and are led by qualified educator/biologist Patty McLaughlin with assistants, and coordinated by Ron Williamson! We have now completed 4 very successful years of the program. If you have children or grandchildren this age then this message is definitely for you. Also we greatly appreciate you telling any potential Young Naturalist’s you may know about the program.

Snowy owl and patty

Young Naturalists leader/biologist Patty McLaughlin with an avian patient at the Wild Bird Care Centre. photo by Barbara Adams

The dates and topics of the 2015 session are as follows:

Sept 12, 2015 – What is a Naturalist? : Exploring and appreciating the diversity of creatures around the Mill of Kintail

Oct 3, 2015 – Invisible nature: a look into puddles, spider webs and mushroom spores!

Nov 7, 2015 – Bones! and of course our favourite activity, owl pellet dissection!

Dec 5, 015 – Rocks and Minerals

Cost: for all 4 sessions is $60 per child.

Maximum number of participants in each session is 17

Early session  9:00 am – 10:30 am

Later session 11:00 am – 12:30 pm

Thank you all for your great feedback at the end of the last session. This year we are going to make a greater effort to spend more time outdoors. Ron has made some great portable sit-upons for everyone so we can take the classroom lessons outside! We also aim to give everyone a bit more freedom to explore the topic of the month by spending some of the time in smaller groups. We hope this will give everyone a greater opportunity to ask more questions, and share more nature stories.

Registration: is on a first come first served basis. If you are interested in signing up please let Patty McLauglin know through email at  asap so that your spot will be held. Payment and paperwork can be submitted at the first session. Please find see here the registration and waiver forms. If you cannot make it to the first session please make arrangements to get the payment / forms to Patty. We cannot hold your place beyond the first session if we have not received the paperwork. Thank you for your understanding.

Looking forward to seeing you in Sept!

MVFN Young Naturalists

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Wild Bird Care presentations wildly successful

Patty Summers of the Wild Bird Care Centre (WBCC) gave her first presentations to two classes at Beckwith Public School in March 2011. These enthusiastic presentations and fourteen others that followed at other area elementary schools in 2011 (in Pakenham, Almonte and Carleton Place) were sponsored by MVFN through our Environmental Education Program (EEP). In 2014 more of these presentations by Summers are taking place in local schools.

Patty mesmerizes Grade 3 and 5 students with fascinating and factual details of the wings, claws and beaks of many wild birds native to our area. She is a natural teacher and does a superb job. The students touch and inspect real beaks, wings and claws, and study them through magnifying glasses, with the exception of those who just cannot bear to touch them! Patty’s love for the natural world and birds in particular really shines through, and her encyclopedic knowledge keeps every child engaged and excited, and asking questions for over an hour.

Wild bird care centre 1

Teachers are very grateful to MVFN and the WBCC and are most impressed with Patty and her presentations. The children learn a lot –  how bird beaks and claws have adapted to enable each bird to capture their food in the most efficient way possible. For example, did you know that ospreys have little rough scales on the bottom of their feet which enable the bird to hang onto the slippery fish after it has been caught?

MVFN should be proud of this contribution to the students in our local schools. I am sure it will contribute to their quest and thirst for more information about birds, their environment and the natural world.

Other presentations by Summers cover  topics such as: What’s on the Menu?;All about Feathers; How to Eat and Not be Eaten; How Birds Survive our Canadian Winters; Human Impacts on Birds: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly; and Pairing Up: Building a Nest and Raising Young.

A huge THANKS! to Patty and the WBCC for developing these inspiring programs for our students. Please feel free to visit the Wild Bird Care Centre any day between 12 and 3 pm (it’s free) or for more information about the centre call 613-828-2849, or visit For more information about EEP, please contact EEP Chair Brenda Boyd.

~ photo by Brenda Boyd and text from story written by Brenda Boyd


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MVFN Young Naturalists Fall 2012 Program Explores Nature at Mill of Kintail

MVFN Young Naturalists Fall 2012 Program Explores Nature at Mill of Kintail

Now in its second year, the MVFN Young Naturalists, headed by Patty Summers from the Wild Bird Care Centre in Nepean, will hold a series of four monthly sessions at the Mill of Kintail, from September to December. Registration for these sessions is open for children 7 to 12 years of age with an interest in nature and a willingness to explore!

Each month we explore a different topic. Take a peek at what we have planned:

Scavenging Species in September will provide an opportunity for new and returning members to get to know each other. Sporting new, personally decorated nature hats, we will try to locate and identify some items and species found in the forest and the Indian River which runs through the property.

October’s session will explore Invisible Nature. Working with the developed observation skills from September, the group will look even closer at some of the aspects of nature not easily spotted. The members will head out on a nature walk with a wool sock over their shoes to collect some of nature’s hitch hikers. Spider webs, mushroom spores and organic specimen found in mud puddles will be examined.

Bones will be the November topic as the youngsters will examine and compare a variety of different bones from mammals and birds. We will even turn a bone into a rubber bone! We will then try to piece together a skeleton from the bones dissected from owl pellets!

The autumn sessions will conclude in December with a nature ramble, complete with cameras for a “Fall photo finish”. The group will head out on a scavenger hunt focused on looking for signs of the changing seasons. A photo display will be produced and shown at MVFN’s indoor lecture series. We will then make some holiday snacks to take home for our back yard visitors!

Program leader Patty Summers began volunteering at the Wild Bird Care Centre (WBCC) at the age of sixteen and continued working there during the summer months while pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Zoology at Laurentian University. With a particular interest in birds, Patty focused her Master’s research at Carleton University on the effects of roads and traffic noise on bird abundance in the Ottawa area. She has participated in local bird counts and has been a volunteer bander at both Innis Point and Long Point Banding Stations. Patty has since returned to the WBCC to implement an educational outreach program and care for sick, injured and orphaned wild birds. Patty has been instrumental in developing and leading these exciting MVFN Young Naturalist sessions for an enthusiastic group of children.

The MVFN Young Naturalists Club is a function of the MVFN Environmental Education Program (EEP) and is headed by MVFN EEP Chair Brenda Boyd. For more information on this and other EEP program, contact Brenda at 256-2706 or .


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NEW ‘MVFN Young Naturalists Program’

MVFN Young Naturalists Program Gets Go Ahead after Successful Pilot project  NOTE: For more information and to register your youngster in the MVFN Young Naturalists program, please contact Brenda Boyd at 613-256-2706 or email . There are still several spaces available for the monthly Saturday morning sessions which run for an hour and a half April 21, May 12, and June 9. Two different time slots are offered, so students can choose the 9 or 11 am start time. Each month is a “stand-alone” unit, so children may join at any time. A fee of  $10 per session applies for each participant which covers a portion of the cost to run the program. The balance of the funding for the program is provided by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. With the success of a pilot project held last fall, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists club (MVFN) is delighted to announce the formation of the “MVFN Young Naturalists” program as a regular monthly activity. The goal of the Young Naturalists Program is to offer young local children an opportunity to develop and expand their knowledge and love of the natural world. Geared towards children aged 7 to 12, the full program was launched in February, 2012, with sessions now being held each month at the Mill of Kintail. The sessions are organized and run by Patty Summers of the Wild Bird Care Centre, with assistance from two volunteer teachers. Patty’s great enthusiasm, natural rapport with children and her expertise were vital to the pilot project’s success and will carry the program forward. During the pilot program the children learned about: ”Creepy Crawlies”, “Changing Seasons”, “Owls” and “Animal Survival in Winter”. According to a post-evaluation of the program, the children all had a lot of fun, learned many fascinating new things about nature, and especially enjoyed dissecting owl pellets, looking for insect larvae in the Indian River, making simple bird feeders and playing a scent scavenger hunt game. Many of these children and their friends have now signed up again to participate in the MVFN Young Naturalists program which was launched following the pilot. The MVFN Young Naturalists Program takes place one Saturday morning per month (with two per morning, so students can choose the 9-10:30 am or the 11 am -12:30 pm time slot) in March, April, May and June 2012. The program begins again in the Fall one Saturday a month from September to December. Each Saturday morning program includes some more formal instruction as well as outdoor exploration and hands-on activities.  Topics planned for the Winter/Spring program include: searching for animal tracks, snowshoeing, learning about weather, searching for and learning about frogs and toads, how to make a toad abode in the garden, seeds, soil composition, birds and birds’ eggs and nests. The lead program instructor, Patty Summers (B.Sc. Zoology and M.Sc. from Carleton University) first volunteered at the Wild Bird Care Centre in Nepean as a high school student and  presently works full-time at the Wild Bird Care Centre, caring for sick and injured birds. She has recently created and implemented an educational outreach program to offer to local schools. MVFN has funded several of Patty’s presentations at elementary schools in Pakenham, Almonte and Carleton Place, which have been a great hit. Joyce Clinton, MVFN President, spoke in glowing terms of the Club’s success in the development and delivery of the new MVFN Young Naturalists program. “In a very short period of time,” remarked Clinton, “a community of 7 to 12 year-olds has joined together to learn about and engage with the wonderful natural world we cherish in Eastern Ontario. Future environmental leadership may well be found from any of these youngsters. We look forward to a display of their journals and projects at MVFN’s annual “Spring Gathering” in May.” The MVFN Young Naturalists is a function of the MVFN Environmental Education Program, which is chaired by Brenda Boyd. Lead member for the development of the project was EEP committee member Katie Cotnam, along with Brenda, Cliff Bennett, Neil Carleton and Ron Williamson. NOTE: For more information and to register your youngster in the MVFN Young Naturalists program, please contact Brenda Boyd at 613-256-2706 or email . There are still several spaces available for the monthly Saturday morning sessions which run for an hour and a half April 21, May 12, and June 9. Two different time slots are offered, so students can choose the 9 or 11 am start time. Each month is a “stand-alone” unit, so children may join at any time. A fee of  $10 per session applies for each participant which covers a portion of the cost to run the program. The balance of the funding for the program is provided by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. _____________________________________________________________________________________

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