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 and North American Envirothons.
This year’s York Region Envirothon will be a one-day event on Wednesday, April 17, 2024 at the Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre in the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville. Register online with Forests Ontario before Friday, March 22, 2024.
The winning team from York Region will receive a commemorative plaque; 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 26 to 29, 2024 at the University of Waterloo.
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 22, 2024. Cost is $250 + 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: Andrew McCutcheon, Outdoor Environmental Education Consultant, @email
- York Catholic District School Board: Germaine Falzone, Pathways and Experiential Learning Consultant, @email
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
The Envirothon is an opportunity for students to learn and interact with the outdoors. The York Region Envirothon will take place with one day of onsite activities at Hollidge Tract followed by a presentation that the teams will submit after the event. All participants and teachers will receive a package of giveaways.
2024 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 – biodiversity in a changing climate; each station is run by natural resource professionals
- After lunch, teams will participate in a friendly competition to enable students to apply their newly-acquired knowledge and skills
- The day will wrap-up in the afternoon with a brainstorming challenge about biodiversity in a changing climate
- 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 (to Friday, April 26, 2024) to create a presentation about the assigned topic and submit it to the competition. Presentations will be graded by Friday, May 3, 2024 and winners announced by Tuesday, May 7, 2024. The winning team from York Region will receive a commemorative plaque. The top teams will also move on to compete in the Ontario Envirothon Competition, taking place May 26 to 29, 2024 at the University of Waterloo.
- Learn more by watching Forests Ontario’s video Envirothon: Growing Tomorrow’s Green Leaders
2023 Ontario Envirothon Champions
In 2023, three teams from York Region qualified for the provincial competition, with Team 1 from the City of Markham’s Markville Secondary School coming in first place.
The winning team was invited to the North American Envirothon Competition held in New Brunswick in July 2023 and placed third – well done!
Free Study Guides and Webinars - Great for Any Classroom
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 2023 York Region Tree Bee competition for the second year in a row! Congratulations also to Adrienne Clarkson Public School and Glen Gould Public School for placing second and third.
Forests Ontario’s York Region Tree Bee is designed to spark curiosity among students aged 9 to 12, and nurture their passion for learning about trees, forests, and the environment.
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, schools, families and budding forest enthusiasts are empowered to head outdoors and become familiar with local trees. In York Region Tree Bee also includes a friendly tree identification and forest awareness competition for students in Grades 4, 5 and 6.
Who is eligible to participate in the York Region Tree Bee?
Students in Grades 4, 5 and 6 (ages 9 to 12) are eligible to participate in the York Region Tree Bee. Participants must either live in York Region, or belong to a school, community group or club located in York Region.
Why should I register my class for Tree Bee?
Tree Bee is a free, interdisciplinary program that can enrich any subject! Whether you are teaching history, math, music, science or even physical education, our Tree Bee resources can help you to engage your students in impactful, place-based learning while meeting Ontario curriculum expectations.
When will the 2024 York Region Tree Bee take place?
Who can I contact for more information?
Please connect with one of Forests Ontario's education staff via email with any additional questions.
- 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
The York Regional Forest is Celebrating 100 Years
This year the York Regional Forest turns 100! Celebrate its growing legacy and discover all it has to offer with free activities and events for all to enjoy.