Camp Kawartha— Fun for the entire family during Green Energy Doors Open

By: Yvonne Ho

This is an interview with Jacob Rodenburg, Executive Director of Camp Kawartha.

 What is Camp Kawartha and what will they showcase during GEDO this year?

Camp Kawartha is an accredited, award-winning Not for Profit organization that is dedicated to delivering quality programming focused on outdoor environmental awareness, outdoor education, and environmental stewardship. Our camp has signed up to be a GEDO host this year— we will be opening our doors to the public on September 9th and 10th, 2016. Our Environmental Centre, located adjacent to Trent University and situated on 200 acres of wildlife sanctuary lands, is often touted as one of Canada’s most sustainable buildings. On this day, the center will be turned into a family-friendly playscape with plenty of fun, eco-themed activities geared for both kids and adults alike.

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The Environmental Centre at Camp Kawartha (Photo Credit: Camp Kawartha website)

Can you tell me a bit about Camp Kawartha’s Environmental Centre?

The Environmental Centre was built by students from Fleming College’s “Sustainable Building Design and Construction” program who wanted to take on a community-based project. They employed cutting edge technology to create an innovative green architecture that has building standards on par with conventional construction, and that meets LEED-Platinum certification requirements. Our centre now serves as a model for many different sustainable architecture projects, and has become a conversation piece among green building experts and enthusiasts.

Are there any features that you anticipate to be particularly interesting and eye opening for GEDO visitors?

I expect many features of the centre to be of interest to our visitors. The centre is approximately 2,000 square feet, similar to the size of an average house. It was constructed using all natural materials— the north, east, and west walls are made of straw bales while the south walls are made of hempcrete/slip straw insulation. Our centre not only has zero carbon emissions, it also produces more energy than it consumes— it uses electricity from 5kW of grid-tied solar panels, has geothermal radiant floors, a solar water heating system, and is highly energy efficient. There is a rainwater harvesting system that sources potable water for the entire building. Atop the building is a living green roof, where local plants and permaculture act as a habitat for migrating butterflies and serves as additional insulation for the building*.

The centre is built so that it integrates well with the surrounding living systems, and will become part of the soil when it reaches the end of its life span. Parents would especially appreciate this form of sustainable housing because it is good for a family’s health and wellbeing— as opposed to regular houses, which are often constructed using toxic materials such as fire retardants, paint and other chemicals that can be harmful for children’s health.

*Visit Camp Kawartha’s website for more details on specific features of the Environmental Centre: http://campkawartha.ca/environmental-education-centre/eco-information/

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Solar Panels at the Environmental Centre (Photo Credit: Camp Kawartha website)

What do you hope will be the main takeaway for visitors who visit the center during GEDO?

My main hope is for visitors—especially parents—to think about our future generations whenever they are making important lifestyle choices. We need consumers to start demanding a different way of living that is more sustainable and that considers the health of our environment. Our centre provides hope for a greener and brighter future by showing our community and future generations how we can all live better, healthier, and more sustainably. If we can teach our children to value and adopt sustainable lifestyle practices, we’ll have gone a long way towards reclaiming a sense of hope for the future.

Camp Kawartha’s programming has a strong environmental focus— can you tell me about the link between outdoor education and environmental stewardship?

There has been compelling research that time spent outdoors while growing up is instrumental in nurturing environmental sensitivity among children. Direct experiences with nature encourage children and youth to care more about the natural world. There have been a number of studies demonstrating that children who grow up spending a lot of time outdoors in green spaces eventually become citizens who are passionate and care about protecting our environment.

Unfortunately, the average child spends more than 7½ hours each day in front of a glowing screen and less than ½ hour a day engaged in outdoor play. We need to find ways to encourage our children to experience nature and to get a good dose of what Richard Louv calls “Vitamin N” (Vitamin Nature). One of the goals of our centre is to train educators, parents, and communities to be more in tune with the natural world, to become environmental stewards, to plant gardens, and to take care of our neighbourwood (our natural surroundings).

Can you tell me a bit about the environmental education programs available at the camp?

We offer over 40 environmental education programs that linked to Ontario’s curriculum and designed for elementary and high school students. Each program usually lasts 1.5 hours; a typical school field trip that consists of two program periods would start at 9:20 am and ends at 2:30 pm. Some of the themes we focus on include: Sustainable living, watershed protection, ecology, nature art, and sensory awareness.

We also offer an “Eco-mentorship Certificate Program” in collaboration with Trent University’s School of Education— where student teachers from Trent’s School of Education learn from experienced environmental educators about how to integrate environmental education into their future teaching practices. Participants enroll in a series of 4 workshops, after which they are expected to take ideas from the workshop and apply them during their final practicum placements. This program has been highly successful and adopted by four different universities so far.

What are some new plans or programs that Camp Kawartha has in the near future?

Thanks to funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Camp Kawartha will be embarking on a multi-stakeholder project called “The Pathway to Stewardship”. This is a call for our entire community to work together to coordinate our efforts in order to foster positive stewards for tomorrow. Public Health, School Boards, Parent Councils, Conservation Authorities and Outdoor Centres will be collaborating in order to provide children with key experiences throughout their development that will encourage stewardship. If successful, we hope that this approach to environmental education can be applied to many other jurisdictions in Ontario.

About Jacob Rodenburg:

Jacob holds a teaching certificate and a Master’s in Education. He has worked in the field of outdoor education and camping for 25 years. Jacob recently received the Ontario Society of Environmental Educators “Leadership in Environmental Education Award.” In 2007, Jacob was awarded the Richards Education Award for excellence in Natural History Education from Ontario Nature. He co-teaches part time at Trent University a course in environmental education. Jacob has published a number of articles on children, nature and the environment. He has coauthored a book on nature activities throughout the seasons with Drew Monkman, called the Big Book of Nature Activities.

To learn more about the Environmental Centre and the environmental education programming available at Camp Kawartha, visit their website, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


Yvonne is an environmental professional with an educational background in environmental science and sustainability. She has several years of work experience in the environmental non-profit sector— carrying out research on key environmental issues, writing reports and educational articles, executing membership development and outreach initiatives, as well as implementing marketing and communications plans for campaigns. She has a keen interest in renewable energy, impact investing, sustainable development, and environmental laws and policies. Prominent environmental organizations she has volunteered at and worked for include Sierra Club, Environmental Defence, Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, Toronto Environmental Alliance, and Pollution Probe. Yvonne is motivated to work together with like-minded people and organizations towards greater environmental justice and climate action.