Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Digital Classroom: How Trekking to Educate changes your Thru-Hike

How does running a digital classroom and providing content along the way to organizations and classrooms change the hike, what is in your backpack, what your schedule looks like?  Moreover does ensuring that you can run a digital classroom on a trail change how you prepare, how you plan, what you carry on you, and what is expected of you on the trail?  Especially in the age of ultralight backpacking and thru hiking.

Goal of trek

In case you haven’t heard, my name is Sonya Richmond and I was – until recently - a GIS Analyst at Bird Studies Canada assisting in the development of Provincial Bird Atlases, and an Ornithological Researcher.  Starting in June 2019 through to October 2021 I am taking a leave from my position at Bird Studies Canada, and have sold my house and donated most of my possessions to fund a planned hike of 24,000 km across Canada along the world’s longest pathway, The Great Trail (formerly known as the Trans Canada Trail).  The plan is to start in Cape Spear, NL in spring 2019 and over the next three years walk west to Victoria, BC, and then venture north from Fort Saskatchewan to Tuktoyaktuk, NT.  While few others have made this trek in its entirety, none have done so with the primary purpose of getting students outdoors into nature to promote youth engagement in the sciences, exploration, and innovation.

As we hike the Great Trail, we will be raising awareness of the importance of protecting migratory birds and bird habitats such as the Boreal Forest, as well as protecting areas of Scientific and Environmental Importance (IBAs). We will emphasize the many opportunities available for becoming active participants in the vibrant outdoor recreation, conservation, and Citizen Science communities across Canada.  Our focus will be on connecting families and youth to nature through birding, promoting healthy active lifestyles, and inspiring a passion to become lifelong explorers, outdoor enthusiasts, and sustainable stewards of the nation’s resources.  A major goal of our walk is get youth active and involved in experiential education opportunities in their own communities.  Research has shown that engagement with nature helps develop healthy, independent, confident and creative individuals who have the self-awareness, communication and critical thinking skills, as well as the creativity necessary to make meaningful contributions to their communities. We believe that birding can be a key means to connecting youth to nature and a way to focus their online activities.  In addition we want to remind Canadian Youth of all that connects nature in our backyard to the environments and habitats throughout the country.  We plan to highlight the connections between habitats in our backyards and local parks and those in places such as the Prairie Grasslands and Boreal Forest.   We are a big and great nation capable of so much and we hope to remind the people of our country of its diversity, natural wonders and potential. 

Over the course of the next three years we are inviting people across Canada to 'Come Walk With Us', either by joining us for a few kilometers on the trail, by following our progress online, or by asking us to give a presentation.  We intend to share a positive message aimed at encouraging and inspiring youth to focus their online and screen time toward becoming Citizen Scientists, to experience the benefits and rewards of spending time in nature, and to become lifelong explorers and protectors of important natural areas.  We intend to deliver unique, positive, accessible, experiential learning opportunities aimed at connecting students and families to nature through birding, and we will do our best to lead by example and inspire through passion.  

We are primarily collaborating with Bird Studies Canada, the country’s leading charitable organization dedicated to the conservation of wild birds to refine our message and in developing an accessible online classroom for teachers to supplement their curriculum.  In addition to Bird Studies Canada we are collaborating with Nature New Brunswick and Nature Newfoundland, have be awarded a grant from the James L. Baillie Memorial Fund, are being sponsored by Clif Bar Canada and Briden Solutions, being advised by members of the Canadian Explorer’s Club and working in conjunction with Science By the Seat of Your Pants, and the Important Bird and Biodiversity Network who are helping us connect with schools, youth, and nature groups across the country.  And this is just the beginning.  As we visit more than 15,000 communities along the trail, we also plan to offer presentations to naturalist organizations, school groups, Boy Scouts / Girl Guides, Seniors Residences, local media outlets, and any other interested parties to share our message with new audiences.  To date the story of our preparations have been reported on the CBC, Explorersweb, TravelMagazines.com, The Trek, SiriusXM as well as a number of regional radio and news broadcasts.

The Groundwork

When the notion of trekking the Trans Canada came to us 2-3 years ago, we began planning, and thought to head out at the beginning of spring in 2018 (one year ago).  As we prepared however we began to realize the opportunity that this hike presented to advance people’s interest in nature, birding and the Citizen Sciences.  In particular, this intrigued us as we had a younger family member who experienced a number of challenges given the amount of time he spent online and playing video games rather than staying physically and socially engaged with the world.  At the time we though it would only take a few weeks, or at most a couple of months, to set up an itinerary, design a presentation, and arrange for talks along the route.  In fact, it has taken us almost an entire year to plan and prepare as well as setting up forums to present in.  So what is involved in this process that took so much time? 

Backpack and Equipment

Perhaps our greatest challenge came in ensuring that we were preparing a digital and not a physical classroom.  We needed to create content without adding much weight to our already bulging backpacks.  As such, in conjunction with Bird Studies Canada we have prepared a number of PDFs and printable materials and power point presentations for classrooms.  In addition to which, we will be carrying a set of binoculars and bird field guide to help youth acquaint themselves with the tools of the trade and identification (but let’s be honest I was taking those anyways, this is about my life list too!).  As well as ‘formal clothes’ for presentations (our goal being simply just to not scare students away with my appearance an odour after a month on the trail). So this means that I still wear field pants, or a skort, and my hiking boots, but I am carrying a campaign shirt with our logo on it (in a zip lock bag) that is only worn on these occasions – so in the end I am carrying an extra piece of clothing on me.  

As well as a tablet to carry and convey our presentations on as well as serving as a means of keeping in touch with youth and birders across Canada!  While none of this seems like much, adding  tablet, batteries, binoculars, identification guide, and the like to our backpacks means that we are carrying more gear than most trekkers would prefer. 

Designing Classroom content

Our second challenge came in designing classroom content, that it fit into curriculum, interested students of all age ranges, and yes to some degree entertains enough to keep them engaged for 30 minutes in a classroom (and hopefully for years to come).   Here we have to admit that it was Liza Barney of Bird Studies Canada to whom we owe our greatest debt.  Her experience and advice has proven invaluable.  In addition throughout this process we have developed an entirely new level of respect for teachers from JK to the conclusion of High School – to do this everyday makes you all amazing!

Schedule and Coordination

Our third challenge came in scheduling presentations, classroom visits, and naturalist groups.  While we had a ton of help from the likes of Nature New Brunswick and BSC’s Important Bird Areas groups it still means that we essentially had to plan where we would be on each specific day for three years.  This means that any changes to our schedule whether from weather, injuries, illness, or the like will result in us having to make up time to keep our schedule together – over the course of almost 900 days.   

Added to this we have tried to design and outline regular content to cover different regions, areas of scientific importance, and varying ecozones to supplement our anticipated regular images and updates as we hike.  This might sound easy – but it has become a rather overwhelming project of ensuring that whether we have wifi or not regular content, and information on birds and birding throughout Canada can and will be published.  

Level of commitment

So beyond carrying more equipment and designing classroom content, what does all this mean?

Well, the reality is that few people get into a thru-hike with the intention of quitting or altering their trekking plans.  When you have commitments and expectations however, the option to change your route, change your timing, etc. diminishes – this places a new level of pressure on the process.  This is something we are still getting used to.  Indeed, holding together a schedule and agenda amid the unknown and unexpected is set to be a challenge for us.  With that said, many of the classrooms and organizations which we have already talked to have agreed that our timing may be a little off and been kind enough to offer to pick us up to ensure we are on time to talks and walks as well as return us to the trail afterwards – making our challenges much more manageable.  (Once again our eternal thanks for your understanding)!

In addition, despite all of this we are well aware – and very open to – visiting additional schools and clubs along the way to get more youth outdoors, experiencing nature through birding and becoming involved as Citizen Scientists.

So in the end, it is not necessarily that our level of commitment is higher or that it is more challenging for us than any other trekker out there, but rather that there are a different set of expectations and additional hurdles to be considered and accounted for as we cross Canada.

The past year has been a long road but it I has definitely been worth it…and the adventure is about to begin!

June 1st, 2019 is now just around the corner… and we extend our invitation to any group or classroom who would like us to talk (and who is understanding of our schedule) to get in touch with us (comewalkwithus@hotmail.com).  

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Simcoe Reformer Article!!

A huge thank you to Ashley Taylor of the Simcoe Reformer for the great interview and opportunity as well as the wonderful article today !  A wonderful way to introduce our trek to the Norfolk community!

Simcoe couple prepare to hike Canada 

Sonya Richmond and Sean Morton are preparing to hike across Canada over the course of three years. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

A Simcoe couple with a love for long-distance hikes are about to depart on their longest trip yet.
Sonya Richmond and Sean Morton are planning to take a three-year trek across the country, along Canada’s 24,000-kilometre Great Trail.

They have previously hiked across Spain and France, and decided it is time to journey across their own country.

“We’re trying to get people to develop a sense of how everything is connected,” said Richmond.
“We’re walking from one side of the country to the other. We’re going to be visiting a lot of communities like this one. The landscape is really different across the country but we are all connected.”

The have sold their home and quit their jobs to make the trip become a reality.

They will be travelling to Newfoundland in the last week of May, holding a kickoff event and then taking the first steps of the hike on June 1.

If all goes according to plan, they will complete their journey in three years. The goal is cover 180 kilometres a week, walking 35 kilometres daily for four days, shorter distances for a couple days and one rest day.

They plan to return to Norfolk for this Christmas and take a break in southwestern Ontario to avoid the harshest winter weather.

“Trying to predict the weather, and trying to predict how fast we’re going to go, those are huge unknowns,” said Richmond. “That’s been a huge challenge.”

They are budgeting $10 a day for their meals.

They also plan to document their journey with a daily blog and on social media.

“Our goal is to inspire people to get out there,” said Richmond.

“If we could inspire one person to get out into nature, especially kids, to get someone excited about nature we’d consider that a success.”

The couple hope to start a business when they complete their adventure but say that is too far in the future to know for sure.

You can follow along with their trip and make donations on their website at www.comewalkwithus.online


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Hiking for a Cause and What that Means: Logo Design

The latest in our series of postings on what hiking for a cause does to your trail preparations.

In recent weeks we have had a few questions about our logo design, and so we thought we would share the process of designing a campaign logo, as well as how and why we set out our design. 

In October of 2018 (a lifetime ago now) we settled on the final draft of our campaign logo.  By the time we had drafted, agreed upon, completed, and then printed our logo, we had spent several months considering our options and drying different ideas, images, and designs.  The process was, to say the least exhausting…..

Think of logos you know, not just the ones you are familiar with, but the ones you instinctively and immediately recognize.  The golden arches of McDonalds, Starbucks, Apple Computers, Amazon, Nike, Target, IBM, Penguin Books, Lego, BMW, John Deer,  Air Canada, Canada Post, World Wild Life Fund, Amnesty International…even digital organizations such as...Instagram, Twitter, Android, Facebook – where in each case the logo has become culturally iconic.  Each of these companies’ logos or decals evokes a sense of their product, their quality, and their ideals.  In fact, in each of these examples, the logos have been so well designed and popularized, that they no longer even require that the name of the store or brand to be included for them to be known.  

Logo basics

So having reviewed popular logos and their designs, we considered what the over arching goal of a corporate or campaign logo should include.  From our research it seems that the best logos must:

(1)    Be simple, attractive, and memorable, or inversely not too busy or complex.

(2)    Be balanced in term of shapes, imagery, design, and colours.

(3)    Rely on the image more than text and typography – or incorporate the text if possible.

(4)    Reflect the mission, ideals and goals of the endeavor.

(5)    Make the organization and campaign look professional and organized.

(6)    Make the campaign have a recognizable and distinct and distinct image – in person and on social media.  Is it easy to remember?  Is it re-tweetable?  Is it distinct or are the elements overused by other similar brands?

(7)    Utilize colours and design effectively, after all there are conscious and subconscious cues which colours have on the mind.  Such logos also need to be designed to account for how a colour logo would look after being reproduced in black and white.  Does the design still work in this instance?

(8)    Stand out on different colour backgrounds for differing websites, T-Shirts, decals and products.

(9)    Be immediately recognizable and foster a connection between an undertaking and those who follow it.

(10)Finally, reflect the undertaking we were about to embark out on!  In other words it had to include Hiking and the Outdoors!

As you can imagine, it is extremely hard to achieve all of this in one design.  In fact after the first month of reworking and reimaging I soon had the greatest respect for graphic designers and what they do everyday.

Perhaps our greatest challenge came in that neither of us is really a designer or artist.  While, admittedly I do have an artistic background from my time at the Toronto Waldorf School and Sean has spent a great deal of time as a professional photographer neither of those experiences really helped us much for this challenge.  In addition to our general lack of skill we also both naturally had different interests and ideas.

Overall however the central problem in designing the logo was how to highlight the hike, our message and  have it reflect both of our interests – birding on one hand, and photography on the other – amid a trek which would cross the entirety of Canada?  Beyond these issues we had to decide what iconic Canadian elements should we include?  How could we represent the trail?  How could we to highlight our birding? Nature? Exploration?  … in short it was a lot to include, and ultimately some of these things just never found their way into the final design.    

Research, early drafts, and long debates

Some of our early drafts and debates tried to include birds, binoculars, hiking poles, the mountains of British Columbia, the grasslands of the Prairies, the Boreal forest of Ontario and Quebec, and the lighthouses of the East Coast.  We debated whether the Trans Canada Logo or the Great Trail icon should be incorporated.  We considered whether the path itself should be overlaid onto the design. Ultimately however, a lot of our ideas went by the wayside as either not workable or not appealing – and with them so too did many of the concerns about what should or could be included in the design.

Soon we settled on a list of things we definitely wanted on the logo.  First and foremost we began with the notion that the Canadian Maple Leaf – a bright beautiful red maple leaf - had to be front and centre – that was a must!  Then we decided that we had to represent the scope of Canada’s wilderness.  Finally we agreed that each of our interests must be reflected – hence the silhouettes of the two hikers – one with binoculars, and one with a camera.  

As we got closer to our final decision, we simplified each aspect of the design further by removing some of the details, and colours – except for the red Maple Leaf.  In the end we went with the classical contrast between the black, white, and red colours and included our name – Come Walk With Us – and our web address : www.comewalkwithus.online .

Ultimately, the entire process – like almost every step of our planning and preparations – took far longer than we anticipated.  This meant delays in announcing our design, delays in getting it to the shirt printer, and patch maker and ultimately a huge delay in launching our website.

In the end however, we are very excited by the final design for the first year of our trek!

See you on the trail…

A Soundtrack for Adventure....

Today marks the beginning of one of our new social media features!  This morning we launched our “Before the Hike” soundtrack, which is a list of songs which have inspired us to get outdoors and explore the natural world!  The website 8tracks.com allows us to upload and organize these songs, which you can then listen to on your phone or at home on the internet.

Starting in June 2019 while we hike along The Great Trail we will be releasing a set of songs which have a special meaning for us, which we have heard a lot lately and have come to associate with the region, or that someone along the way pointed out to us and it stuck.  Each month we will share a new list of these songs with you by uploading a small tracking listing for your enjoyment.

For now enjoy our list for “Before the Hike”

-1 - Proclaimers - I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)

-2 - Imagine Dragons – On Top  of the World

-3 - Asaf Avidan – One Day / Reckoning

-4 - Guster - This Could all be Yours

-5 - Hugh Oliver – Oh Canada

-6 - The Beatles – Here Comes the Sun

-7 - Blues Traveler – Run-Around

-8 - Jose Gonzalez – Stay Alive

-9 - Xavier Rudd – Let Me Be

-10 - Little Joy – The Next Time Around

-11 – Mumford & Sons – Where Are You Now

-12 – Big Country – In a Big Country

-13 – Green Day – Good Riddance (Time of Our Lives)

-14 - The Oh Hellos – This Will End

-15 – Traveling Wilburys – End of the Line

See you on the Trail