March 29, 2023


The Waterloo Region Museum, in co-operation with various forestry officials from the area, have been putting on an annual Forest Festival for four years to date.

This year the festival was a two-day educational program on Oct. 6 and 7 for Grade 6 and 7 students, teaching them about the environment. Over 400 students attended, according to Dave Neufeld, education co-ordinator of the museum. The event featured presentations and hands-on activities including information on forest ecosystems, stewardship, conservation, species at risk and the impacts of climate change.

The day included all sorts of fun activities and games for the children, some even taking place in the village buildings. The heritage village includes a wide variety of old-time, 1914 businesses, even a train station that has a schedule from the year. Some other businesses include a blacksmith’s shop, where kids were shown how to forge some tools like a chisel, a pick and horseshoes; a meat shop where butchering techniques were discussed (but there was no graphic content), a carpeting shop, a repair shop and a general market. Everything is nice and cosy and convenient, and oh-so-different from modern times.

“It’s like a whole different world inside the new world,” said Duncan Wey, an employee at the museum who was teaching the kids about leather working.

Wey loves the time he spends in the village. He’s a big believer in the ways of old.

“Everything today is made to be thrown away … Back then they built things to last.”

But there’s so much more than just the heritage village to enjoy at the festival. Activities for the children were everywhere, including in the village, up into some old homes which were once actually lived in, and even farther out into the forested outskirts of the museum’s property.

One of the first activities, before even entering the village was Oh! Deer – a unique take on tag where one student is chosen from the group to be a hunter, or rather a pioneer; because deer aren’t the only thing the seekers are after. The rest of the group stands with their backs toward the seeker and make shapes with their hands to illustrate which essential resource they are. Hands together in a triangle over their head represented shelter, fingers for antlers represented deer (or food) and there was another symbol for water. After being told what resource they were, the seeker was sent off and the other kids were told to turn around and show which resource they were. Later, the volunteers announced that the game was over because all the deer went extinct and explained to the kids what extinction is.

After returning to the village, the children took part in Buckthorn. This activity elaborated on their lesson about invasive species. They were given an example of what invasive species are and given a large wrench to go remove the buckthorn plants, which were being called the invasive species. They used the wrenches to clamp onto the small shrubs and pull them out of the ground, including the roots. Buckthorn is an actual invasive species. Native to Eurasia, it was brought to North America during the 1880s and is invading a lot of our native species today.
Many of the days’ activities were based around trees. Participants learned how to determine when and why trees should be cut down, and that there are restrictions. If a tree is over 16 centimetres in diameter, it can’t be cut down. Trees that thick tend to be older and their wood is not as durable. Plus, it can be a danger to the people cutting down the trees and the ecosystems around them.

There were a total of 22 activities in all, so many that not even the kids on the trip could participate in them all.

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