Estimated time to read: 4 minutes

Rachel Paquette

Program Officer Nature Interpretation

Disclaimer: This blog was written before the COVID-19 pandemic. Guided activities, programs and workshops are cancelled until further notice.

My earliest memories are of spending time in the outdoors and feeling happy. As a young child, I spent summers with my family at the Philippe Lake campground in Gatineau Park. It’s fitting that today I find myself working for the NCC as a nature interpretation program officer in Gatineau Park.

Preparing for the year

From being a math tutor, to teaching English as a second language, to working in museums, I’ve always enjoyed the opportunity to share the knowledge that I have acquired in ways that people can connect with. I’m an educator at heart.

I get to bring this passion to my role by working with the Gatineau Park team to bring our interpretation plan and its themes to life. I work closely with a group of nature interpretation guides to deliver our programs. I manage schedules, write scripts, provide training, evaluate performances and adapt programs as needed.

Guide talking to a group of young visitors.

I also work with the Park biologists to ensure that we are providing the public with the most accurate and timely information. They give us ideas for themes that are relevant to the Park’s conservation initiatives, which we then integrate into our programming. 

My role varies with the seasons. Here is a glimpse of what we do in each season.

Winter

We kick off the season in January with snowshoeing activities offered to the public on weekends, and host two curriculum-based activities for school groups on weekdays.

We also welcome groups of new Canadians into the Park. Watching them become more at ease with the Canadian winter is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. We start by introducing them to the Park and its wide variety of recreational activities, with emphasis on the possibility of appreciating the outdoors in winter. We discuss the animals that live in the Park and how they adapt to the challenges of the cold, dark season. Then, we head out for a snowshoe hike, followed by hot chocolate in the Visitor Centre.

New Canadians taking part in winter activities in Gatineau Park.

Gatineau Park hosts a winter carnival. These two afternoons spent outdoors was to encourage new Canadians to experience the joys of winter (sliding, snowshoeing, s’mores and hockey) in the Park. 

People playing boot hockey.

Spring

There are two months in the year when bringing people into the Park proves to be difficult: April and November. What can we do when the Park is too wet and muddy for students to enjoy? We bring the Park to them! In April, we offer a program to teach students about the important role that canines play in the Park. This is a great opportunity to dispel myths often associated with wolves and coyotes. We delivered the program in 23 schools, and a total of 67 classes.

In May and June, nature interpreters offer three guided hikes tailored to the curriculum of students ranging from preschool to high school. On-site, hands-on, dynamic and experiential, these programs are the best way to increase interest in nature among schoolchildren.

Summer

As we head into the summer months, Gatineau Park is in full swing. Programs are offered most days of the week from the end of June until Labour Day. In the afternoon at Parent Beach, for example, campers can take part in the “Adopt a River” program, a national initiative that highlights the importance of water quality monitoring.

In the evenings, we gather around the campfire or at the amphitheatre to share stories about the Park’s natural and cultural heritage.

People gathered on benches by a campfire at the shore of a lake.

In collaboration with Parks Canada, a “Learn to Camp” program is offered in Gatineau Park to a group of new Canadians who spend 24 hours at the Philippe Lake campground.

People setting up a tent.

Fall

Fall is a very busy and exciting time of year. We offer our three guided school programs, and contribute interpretive content to the Fall Rhapsody activities. This means having qualified nature interpreters on-site to share relevant and interesting information with the diverse audiences who come to the Park to see the fall colours.

Interpreter holding a bald eagle at Philippe Lake.

In November, things quiet down, and we head back into the classroom to discuss how we humans can better understand and respect the needs of animals while benefiting from the Park’s many recreational activities.

Have you taken part in any of our programs? Which one is your favourite?