About the Park

MISSION
The original mission of the Arthur Ford Nature Park was to bring the education to nature. Twenty years later, our goal has become that of bringing natural sciences, back into education.

HISTORY
What is a Nature Park anyway? The concept of a Nature Park comes to us from the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel. He believed that children possessed needs and capabilities that were unique from those of adults. In 1840, he coined the term “kindergarten” which means “children learning from the garden.” The idea behind it was that in order for young children to learn, there ought to be some sort of outdoor activity involved. The simplest form of this was the planting of small gardens by children, as a part of nature studies. All of this changed in the twentieth century however. When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, suddenly there was a shift in education away from nature studies, towards hard science.

ARTHUR FORD PUBLIC SCHOOL
The Nature Park found its way to Arthur Ford Public School in the late 1980s as a result of its then principal, Thom McClenaghan. When McClennagan came to Arthur Ford Public School as Vice Principal in 1981, he was struck by the immensity of the campus. He also realized how much of the campus was virtually unusable because its natural state was usually wet and marshy. The thought occurred to him that such an area would be an ideal place to put a children’s garden, like that which Froebel believed in. What better way to use the vast campus, than for teaching and learning about nature? Building children’s interest and knowledge of the environment today, would help develop a respect for environmental issues facing them in the future.

GROUNDBREAKING
When McClenaghan became Principal of Arthur Ford Public School in 1983, he approached the Arthur Ford Home and School Association with his idea. Sue Epstein and a number of other members were immediately interested and undertook the project. Much talent and energy was poured into the project by the students, staff and parents of Arthur Ford students in the next few years. The Arthur Ford Nature Park groundbreaking occurred in October of 1988 with Ontario Premier David Peterson helping two Kindergarten students (Jenna Denstedt and Jeff Peter) plant a tree, and was officially opened in June 1992. The Arthur Ford Nature Park was the model for this type of undertaking. No other school in the province had ever undertaken such a project to link education and nature together, right on campus. The Arthur Ford Nature Park truly was a pioneering venture, much ahead of its time.

TODAY
Twenty years later, The Arthur Ford Nature Park is flourishing. With the recent advent of environmentally-focused “green” initiatives, the mission for the Nature Park could not be more relevant. It is crucial that children embrace natural sciences and respect the earth. In the coming months, we will be announcing various volunteer initiatives. If you would like to take part in these events, please contact us. We held a celebration on Thursday, October 2nd, 2008 commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the groundbreaking, and continue our annual plant sales and events to keep the park healthy and growing! Email us to join the mailing list, and stay informed!

The Arthur Ford Nature Park is open to the public year round. Come and explore this unique park at your leisure. Schools or groups wishing to arrange visits should contact Arthur Ford Public School at 519-452-8020.

MISSION
The mission of the Arthur Ford Nature Park was to bring education to nature and put natural sciences back into education.

HISTORY
What is a Nature Park anyway? The concept of a Nature Park comes to us from the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel. He believed that children possessed needs and capabilities that were unique from those of adults. In 1840, he coined the term “kindergarten” which means “children learning from the garden.” The idea behind it was that in order for young children to learn, there ought to be some sort of outdoor activity involved. The simplest form of this was the planting of small gardens by children, as a part of nature studies. However, all of this changed in the twentieth century when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957. Suddenly, there was a shift in education away from nature studies towards hard science.

ARTHUR FORD PUBLIC SCHOOL
The Nature Park found its way to Arthur Ford Public School in the late 1980s as a result of its then principal, Thom McClenaghan. When McClennagan came to Arthur Ford Public School as Vice Principal in 1981, he was struck by the immensity of the campus. He also realized how much of the campus was virtually unusable because its natural state was usually wet and soggy. The thought occurred to him that such an area would be an ideal place to put a children’s garden, like that which Froebel believed in. What better way to use the vast campus, than for teaching and learning about nature? Building children’s interest and knowledge of the environment today would help develop a respect for environmental issues facing them in the future.

THE BEGINNING
As Principal of Arthur Ford Public School in 1986, Thom McClenaghan approached the Arthur Ford Home and School Association with his idea. Sue Epstein and a number of other community members were immediately interested. The Arthur Ford Outdoor Educational Foundation Inc. was formed in 1987. Landscape design student Marc Lalonde presented architectural drawings reflecting the needs of the school community. The community then began the task of planning the stages to create the Arthur Ford Nature Park. Each plant chosen was to educate the students about different aspects of nature, e.g. leaf shape, bark texture, flower, scent, etc. Much talent and energy was poured into the project by the students, staff and parents of Arthur Ford students over the next few years.

GROUNDBREAKING
The Arthur Ford Nature Park ground breaking was held in October of 1988 with Ontario Premier David Peterson helping two kindergarten students (Jenna Denstedt and Jeff Peter) plant the first tree, and the Nature Park was later officially opened in June 1992. The Arthur Ford Nature Park was the model for this type of undertaking. No other public school in Canada had ever undertaken such an ambitious project to link education and nature together directly on an elementary school campus. The Arthur Ford Nature Park was truly a pioneering venture, much ahead of its time. The Thames Valley District School Board has since taken similar initiatives to create nature parks on other school properties.

THE PARK
The Nature Park consists of a butterfly garden, an ornamental grass garden, a bird garden, an arboretum of over 50 species of trees, an amphitheatre, and a growing plot for community gardeners. Many benches have been placed throughout the Nature Park to provide a place of solace and enjoyment of the surrounding environment.

Today the Arthur Ford Nature Park is flourishing. With the recent advent of environmentally-focused “green” initiatives, the mission for the Nature Park could not be more relevant. It is crucial that children embrace natural sciences and respect the earth.

The Arthur Ford Nature Park is open to the public year round. Come and explore this unique park at your leisure. Schools or groups wishing to arrange visits should contact Arthur Ford Public School at 519-452-8020.

VOLUNTEERS & DONATIONS
From its beginning, the Arthur Ford Nature Park has been run by volunteers and we are always open to having new people join our team. If you are interested in volunteering in any capacity, please contact us at www.arthurfordnaturepark.org. Your help would be much appreciated working on our committee, planning events, assisting at plant sales, doing seasonal work in the Nature Park or distributing plant sale order forms.

The Arthur Ford Outdoor Educational Foundation is a non-profit charitable organization and tax receipts can be provided for any donations received.

2016-2017 BOARD MEMBERS
Glenn & Jane Auger
Yvonne Bialek
Jim Coulthard
Sue Epstein
Alison Ferguson
Linda Logan
Thom McClenaghan
Kerri Mesmen
Emma Mesmen
Jeff Peter
Damon & Laurie Simpson
Diane Veitch
Rob & Laura Webdale