York Region offers a number of outdoor education programs designed for clubs, community groups and schools to connect people with nature and inspire action.
Author James Raffan once said, “Learning about nature is no substitute for learning in nature.”
Through the York Region Adopt-a-Stream program, school and community groups can help restore forest cover and habitat in-and-around streams near Regional roads.
- Tree and shrub planting
- Litter pickup
- A classroom visit upon request
Adopt-a-Stream program volunteer hours count toward the Ministry of Education’s required secondary school community service hours in Ontario.
- Planting and restoration instruction and guidance
- Trees and shrubs for planting
- Safety vests, gloves and shovels
- On-site safety instructions for working around busy roads, water and uneven ground
- Wear clothing appropriate for the weather and sturdy footwear on the day of the planting
- Group leaders are responsible for participant organization and ensuring safety standards are met
- Upon registration, a COVID-19 screening questionnaire will be required for all volunteers
This program is provided at no cost. If transportation is required for schools, registered charities or non-profit organizations, the cost may be subsidized by York Region if indicated in the comments section of the application form.
Planting takes place between:
- April and June (spring planting season)
- September and November (fall planting season)
To register or learn more about the program, please fill out an application form. You will be contacted by the program coordinator.
Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre
The Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre is located in the Hollidge Tract in the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville. It features a classroom and a boardroom which are used for many York Region programs such as guided forest walks and Nature’s Classroom.
Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre is not accepting bookings until further notice
This unique and inspirational building, the Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre, is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Platinum certified and in 2018 became the first in Canada and twenty-first building worldwide to successfully become Living Certified under the Living Building Challenge. The Living Building Challenge is a program of the International Living Future Institute and is comprised of seven performance areas; site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty. Some of the innovative features of the building include:
- All wood construction including cross-laminated timbers
- All new wood material used in the building is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified
- Through the use of solar panels, LED light fixtures, heat pumps, radiant heating and triple-glazed windows, the building will generate more energy than it uses
- The building’s canopy gathers rain water and snow melt to service bathroom facilities
- All of the water used comes from the site and is treated and discharged on-site, resulting in net-zero water use
- Much of the building materials were sourced from local manufacturers to reduce carbon emissions
What is the York Region Envirothon?
York Region Envirothon is an interactive, hands-on, outdoor environmental education program for youth in grades 9 to 12 and is part of the Ontario Envirothon and the North American Envirothon.
This year's York Region Envirothon will be a one-day event on Thursday, April 13, 2023, at the Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre in the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville. Register online with Forests Ontario before Friday, March 31, 2023.
The winning team from York Region will receive a commemorative plaque, an experiential learning session for their school, a $150 gift card to an outdoor education supply store, and the chance to compete in the Ontario Envirothon Virtual Competition; all participants and teachers will receive a package of giveaways.
The top teams will also move on to compete in the Ontario Envirothon Virtual Competition, taking place May 29 to 31, 2023 (tentative).
How to Participate
Ontario students enrolled in grades 9 through 12 in public, private and home schools or community organizations such as 4-H clubs and outdoor or environmental clubs are invited to participate. Register online with Forests Ontario before Friday, March 31, 2023. Cost is $250 plus HST.
Registration subsidies are available for schools from publicly funded school boards. Please reach out to school board representatives for more information:
- York Region District School Board: Gina Marucci, Outdoor Environmental Education Consultant, @email
- York Catholic District School Board: Germaine Falzone, Pathways and Experiential Learning Consultant, [email protected]
Teachers or leaders can register teams of five students; once registration is filled, team requests will be put on a waitlist. Teams must have adult supervision at the event. York Region will cover up to $150 for transportation for each team.
How York Region Envirothon Works
Envirothon is an opportunity for students to learn and interact with the outdoors. This year’s York Region Envirothon will take place in a hybrid format with one day of on-site activities followed by a presentation that will be completed by the teams after the event. All participants and teachers will receive a package of giveaways.
2023 competition format
- In the morning, students will rotate through eco-stations learning practical, hands-on, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills on topics including soils, aquatics, wildlife, forestry and this year’s special topic - species at risk; each station is run by natural resource professionals
- After lunch, teams will participate in a friendly competition to allow students to apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills
- The day will wrap up in the afternoon with a brainstorming challenge about species at risk
- Before departing, teams will receive instruction on the presentation topic and how to record and submit their work
Following the in-person event, teams will have one week (until Friday, April 21, 2023) to create a presentation about the assigned topic and submit it to the competition. Presentations will be graded by Thursday, April 27, 2023, and winners announced by Friday, April 28, 2023. The winning team from York Region will receive a commemorative plaque, an experiential learning session for their school, a $150 gift card to an outdoor education supply store, and the chance to compete in the Ontario Envirothon Virtual Competition. The top teams will also move on to compete in the Ontario Envirothon Virtual Competition, taking place May 29 to 31, 2023 (tentative).
- Learn more by watching Forests Ontario’s video – Envirothon: Growing Tomorrow’s Green Leaders
2022 Ontario Envirothon Champions
In 2022 five of the 22 teams that qualified for the provincial competition were from York Region including:
- Markville Secondary School, City of Markham (three teams)
- Richmond Green Secondary School, City of Richmond Hill
- St. Elizabeth Catholic High School, City of Vaughan
Prize packs were provided by York Region to all these teams for displaying enthusiasm, creativity and problem-solving skills.
Congratulations to the “Saxophones” team from St. Elizabeth Catholic High School in the City of Vaughan for placing first in the Ontario Envirothon competition and for being invited to the North American Envirothon Competition – well done!
Free Study Guides and Webinars – Great for any Classroom
Study Guides and webinars are available to help prepare students for their local competition and the Ontario Envirothon Championship.
Study guides and webinars can also be used by teachers for high school lessons to introduce key ecological concepts like soil profiles, forest management, water quality assessment and much more.
The York Region Envirothon is held in partnership with Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust, the York Region District School Board, York Catholic District School Board, Forests Ontario and Ontario Envirothon.
Please be advised that Nature's Classroom has been put on hold until further notice. To join the waitlist and stay informed about the program, please fill out the online application form.
Nature’s Classroom is a fun, free and informative outdoor education program offered to a variety of groups and organizations including not-for-profit and charitable organizations, clubs, community groups, families and schools. This program is open to children, youth, adults and seniors.
Held in the York Regional Forest, these engaging sessions are designed to share rich stories of the forest and its importance to our community. Each program includes a guided forest walk.
Programs are 1.5 to 2 hours in length and are available for ages 4 and up.
Eligible group size: Minimum of 10 to a maximum of 25 participants (including adult supervisors)
Programs for all ages
Canada’s First Living Building: Inside and Out — Explore Canada’s first ‘living building’ - the Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre - to discover the features of its sustainable design. Enjoy a guided walk to experience the history of the surrounding forest while learning how it supports a healthy community. Offered year-round. Recommended for ages 14 and up.
Nature by Snowshoe — Explore the forest on snowshoes and learn about their origin and cultural significance. This program requires snow. Offered December to March, weather permitting. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
Nature Watch — Do you want to be a citizen scientist? On this walk, you will explore the forest and learn how to report your discoveries. Help local conservation and science efforts by observing plants and animals and sharing data through online applications, while learning more about the nature around you. Offered year-round. Recommended for ages 14 and up.
Nighttime Wonders — When the sun goes down – you should go exploring! Use your senses to smell, hear and see the forest at night. Offered October through to April. Recommended for ages 4 and up.
Wild about Wildlife — Wildlife lovers - this is the walk for you! Learn about the animals that live in the forest and how to know if they’re around. Engaging stories and forest folklore make this guided walk even more awesome! Offered year-round. Recommended for ages 4 and up.
Programs for adults (16+) and seniors (55+) only
Forest Stroll — ‘Easy does it’ is the theme of this stroll. This leisurely walk will take place on the accessible trail and is ideal for people with limited mobility or those who want to walk at a slow pace while taking in the many views offered by the forest. Offered year-round.
Getting Active in the Forest — Fitness buff…or not – this is a fun way to get active outdoors! Breathe in the sights and smells of the forest as you get your heart rate up with this low to medium impact walk. Offered year-round.
Vitamin N — Nature is good for you! Join us to discover more about the benefits of spending time in nature and ways to enjoy this awesome ‘vitamin’. The program includes an indoor presentation followed by a dose of ‘Vitamin N’ by way of an interpretive walk through the forest. Offered year-round.
Customized programming including badge requirements for Scouts and Guides may be accommodated, on request.
Programs are designed to suit the needs of many different types of groups including:
- Scouts, Girl Guides and 4-H
- Persons with disabilities
- Local clubs and community groups
- Faith groups
This program is provided at no cost.
Please be advised that Nature’s Classroom has been put on hold until further notice due to COVID-19. To join the wait list and stay informed about the program, please fill out the online application form.
WE HAVE A WINNER! A special shout out to St. Brendan Catholic Elementary School for placing first in the 2022 York Region Tree Bee competition! Congratulations also to the 20th Aurora Guides and the Tripe R Tree Bee Club for placing second and third.
Run by Forests Ontario, the Tree Bee program inspires students in Grades 4 to 6 to learn about trees, forests and the environment. Get kids excited about the environment as they learn how to identify trees and test their tree knowledge against other teams in a competition.
Visit Forests Ontario Tree Bee website or email @email for more information.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Tree Bee?
Tree Bee is a free, web friendly tool which introduces users to trees in their backyards and communities. Through online resources and tools, schools, families, community groups and forest enthusiasts are encouraged to get familiar with their local trees.
The York Region Tree Bee includes a fun hands-on tree identification virtual competition for students in Grades 4 to 6 and youth ages 9 to 12.
Who is eligible to participate in the 2022 York Region Tree Bee?
Students in Grades 4 to 6 can participate. Community groups and libraries may also register youth ages 9 to 12 to participate in the competition.
How many students are allowed to participate?
Teams must be made up of a minimum of two participants to a maximum of 28. Team breakdown is at the discretion of the Tree Bee Teacher/Coach. In the event of multiple teams per class/group, Forests Ontario will accept one test per team, up to a maximum of five tests per group. The class/group’s overall score will be determined by test average.
When will registration open and when does it close?
Registration will open on Wednesday, September 21 and close on Wednesday, November 16, 2022.
How can my class/group prepare for the competition?
Your class/group is encouraged to prepare for the competition using the resources provided on Forests Ontario’s webpage, The Hive. Resources include a Teacher/Coach guide, lesson plans, activity sheets and practice tests. An access link to The Hive will be sent following registration.
When/where is the 202 York Region Tree Bee competition?
The virtual competition will be held on Wednesday, November 23 to Friday, November 25, 2022. The York Region Tree Bee test will be accessible via Google Forms for thirty-six hours, starting at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, November 23 and closing at 9 p.m. on Thursday, November 25. It is estimated that the test will take on average between thirty to sixty minutes to complete.
When will the winner be announced?
The winner of the 2022 York Region Tree Bee will be announced the week of December 12 2022.
How will the winner be announced?
The winner of the 2022 York Region Tree Bee will be announced on York Region and Forests Ontario social media channels. Teams receiving a prize pack will also be contacted via email to coordinate shipping details.
What does the winning team receive?
The name of the 2022 winner will be engraved onto a plaque alongside past winners and will get to display the plaque at their organization for the remainder of the school year (June 30, 2022). They will also receive a digital certificate and some fun York Region environmentally themed prizes.
What do the runner-up teams receive?
Second and third-placed teams will receive a digital certificate and some fun York Region environmentally themed prizes.
What happens if there is a tie?
In the event of a tie for first, second or third-place, teams will be entered into a draw for one of three prize packs. Prize packs are prepared for a maximum of 28 people per class or group.
Does every team who participates receive something?
Yes, all participants who participate in the 2022 York Region Tree Bee will receive a digital participant certificate.
When will the 2023 York Region Tree Bee take place?
The 2023 York Region Tree Bee will take place in the fall. The best way to be notified about the 2023 York Region Tree Bee is by following @yorkregiongovt on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
- Environment Resources
- ID Your Trees at Treebee.ca
- Focus on Forests Program for Teachers from Forests Ontario
- Trees Are Good Education Resources for Teachers
- Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority - Conservation Education for Teachers
- Tree Canada – Greening Canada’s School Grounds
- Evergreen School Ground Greening Opportunities
- The Canadian Biodiversity Institute – School Grounds Institute
- ACER - Association for Canadian Educational Resources
- TD Friends of the Environment Foundation
- Town of Richmond Hill's Lake Wilcox Park — Self-guided Tree Tour
- Visit your local municipality for parks and recreational programs