How Our Outdoor Educational Program is Impacting Youth and Our Communities

Published by CPAWS Ottawa Valley. Read the original blog.

The Canadian Wilderness Stewardship Program (CWSP) is an educational experience designed to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards in Canada by connecting youth to nature and their local communities. 

The 2021-2022 season has just wrapped up. The program consisted of three phases:

  1. A wilderness expedition: we took participants on a two-day white-water canoe and camping trip along the Noire River
  2. A volunteer project: an educational or environmental stewardship project
  3. A summit: an opportunity for participants across Canada to gather, share ideas, and further develop leadership and advocacy skills

For pandemic accommodations, this year’s end of program summit was a combination of a virtual national summit and smaller in-person regional summits hosted by the participating CPAWS chapters. Our Ottawa Valley participants gathered at Fort Coulonge, in the presence of the majestic Coulonge River, to hear from industry speakers and share their projects.

Here’s what some of our youth participants had to say about their experience being part of the 2021-2022 cohort of CWSP.

“How did participating in the program help you connect with your community and local wild spaces?”

“CWSP helped encourage me to reach out to other community organizations to collaborate.

It felt amazing to feel so welcomed and be able to participate in leading events. I loved learning new techniques on removing invasive species to keep the local ecosystem healthy. 

I look forward to volunteering more and teaching others what I’ve learned!”

Mesha, CWSP participant whose project focused on removing Japanese knotweed from Hampton Park

“How did participating in the program grow your research and collaboration skills?”

“My project focused on the intersection of Indigenous studies and environmental conservation.

Often, the media focuses on struggles within Indigenous communities or cultural events. 

There’s much more to Indigenous peoples than solely these two topics. My goal was to bring visibility to their environmental stewardship efforts. 

I curated a list of Indigenous communities in the Ottawa Valley and their projects related to conservation, connected with these communities, and explored how I and CPAWS-OV can support their work through outreach, funding or research.”

Angelique, CWSP participant whose project focused on supporting collaborative work between Indigenous communities and CPAWS-OV

“What did you learn from taking part in the program?”

“Participating in CWSP allowed me to be immersed in local conservation efforts and it gave me the opportunity to meet other passionate individuals. I had the chance to understand on a deeper level the importance of watershed conservation and what I could do to help. 

Before starting this program, I wasn’t sure if I was interested in environmental conservation but the program has inspired me to apply for (and accept) a job in the field, which is what I’ll be doing this summer!”

Meghan, CWSP participant whose project included a ski tour along the Ottawa River