Written by the IISAAK OLAM Foundation
What would pre-school programs look like if they were centred around climate action, reconciliation and place-based learning? Thanks to a grant from TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and a partnership between the IISAAK OLAM Foundation, Pacific Peoples’ Partnership, and Saanich Parks, we’re about to find out!
Climate Action Youth Ambassador Canada (CAYAC) is an existing solutions-focused youth initiative that mobilizes knowledge about Indigenous innovations for climate action. Although CAYAC has been focused primarily on youth ages 16-30, the IISAAK OLAM Foundation wondered what it would look like to immerse even younger children in leadership programs that highlight connections between nature and culture. From this, the seeds of the CAYAC Preschool program were sewn. The life of this program will grow in a purposeful environment that mobilizes knowledge and builds capacity for the conservation of biological and cultural diversity through: conservation, climate action, and reconciliation- the mission of the IISAAK OLAM Foundation.
Starting in January of 2020, four to five kids will be a part of the first cohort of wee ones to join CAYAC Coordinators and Indigenous Elders/knowledge holders in a part-time experiential learning program that involves immersion in nature, Indigenous languages and teachings about the land, and activities based in the natural law of IISAAK: ‘To observe, appreciate, and act accordingly.’ Recent studies show that “children experience profound and diverse benefits through regular contact with nature. Contact with the wild improves children’s wellbeing, motivation and confidence” (Horton, 2019).
CAYAC Preschool will help foster a relationship between young children and nature, encourage intergenerational learning, celebrate cultural diversity, and provide opportunities for parents to explore alternative community-focused education models. CAYAC Preschool will also coincide with Saanich Parks’ ‘Natural Intelligence’ movement which aims to “strengthen the knowledge of nature, parks, and on how to improve the community’s environment” (Saanich Parks). “Natural Intelligence means understanding how to; interpret the natural environment, interact with the natural environment, and integrate our lives with the natural environment” (Saanich Parks). Still curious about the movement? Learn more here!
The program will also connect to other programs such as RedTide Indigenous Youth Climate Connect, coordinated by the Pacific Peoples’ Partnership. The goal of RedTide is to increase climate literacy and inspire agency for Indigenous youth to become the next wave of change makers through clean technology, green entrepreneurship, creative arts, and cultural practice. “The opportunity to support the synergies between RedTide and CAYAC Toddlers is exciting. We are allies working together on a collective vision for the future generations of leaders,” stated April Ingham, Executive Director of the Pacific Peoples’ Partnership.
A ceremonial launch of the program is scheduled for early January, date TBD. More details to come!
Special thanks to our lead donor: