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STORIES OF NOW: Focus on Nature

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STORIES OF NOW: Focus on NatureArtBridges, Arts for Social Change Network, Focus On Nature | ON | 2022

“STORIES OF NOW” is part of a project ArtBridges is working on with Judith Marcuse Projects’ ASCN (Arts for Social Change Network) and ICASC. It is about gathering and sharing stories emanating from the field now and about what issues and areas of focus matter.

STORIES OF NOW: STORIES OF NOW: Focus on Nature (Guelph, ON)
As told by: Simon Bell, Executive Director, Focus on Nature, November 29th, 2021 to Seanna Connell (ArtBridges).


"f you could tell a story about your community-engaged arts initiative now, this year, what would the story be about? What are the main themes?

SB: Our story is one of adapting to the new reality of school lockdowns and pivoting to remote learning. Focus on Nature’s mission is to inspire young people to explore and connect with nature through photography. We do this primarily by offering full-day nature photography workshops in schools. This allows us to reach the broadest possible audience of children, regardless of their financial ability to participate.

Pre-pandemic, our program was expanding each year to include schools in Hamilton, Halton Region, Waterloo Region and Guelph-Wellington, where we started in 2010. By 2019 we were touching the lives of nearly 7,000 children each year in Ontario. In 2020, with the arrival of Covd-19 and schools locked down, our reach collapsed to just 90 children and we knew that we had to re-invent ourselves.

We began by creating short video modules based on the Elements of Design, photo composition and photo editing. This proved quite popular with teachers, so we expanded the Focus on Nature Online web portal to include more videos, check-in quizzes and photo challenges, all in both French and English. We added a Teacher’s Lounge with access to extension activities and resources that teachers could use while students were learning remotely. In 2021, we had 80 teachers and about 2,000 students signed up!"

For the full Story, click the Download link or follow the link here:


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