Environment

Climate change for kids: teaching the next generation about the Canadian wilderness

Taviss Edwards, host of the TVO Kids’ series Secrets of the Forest, and director Melissa Peters discuss how we can encourage the next generation to invest in climate action and care for the land

  • May 15, 2024
  • 1,088 words
  • 5 minutes
Secrets of the Forest host Taviss Edwards hugs a tree while looking for physarum, also known as “slime mold.” (Photo: Secrets of the Forest/Fifth Ground Entertainment)
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The Canadian wilderness is well-known for its rich biodiversity full of preserved natural lands, vast species of flora and fauna and an abundance of natural resources. But within our forests, there are many “secrets” that have yet to be uncovered. 

In a new 26-episode nature series produced by Fifth Ground Entertainment, Secrets of the Forest aims to teach children about the wonders of the Canadian landscape by taking them on trips to speak with scientists, Indigenous groups and conservationists to learn about the many mysteries of the natural world.

This one-of-a-kind TVO Kids’ series, which premiered on Earth Day, is hosted by Taviss Edwards, a 10-year-old equestrian and actress. The show takes viewers through various National Parks and nature reserves throughout Canada, teaching children about our country’s wilderness and how to protect it.

Edwards learning about the trees in Victoria, B.C. with scientist Marty Kranabetter. (Photo: Secrets of the Forest/Fifth Ground Entertainment)
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On the creation of Secrets of the Forest

Peters: I wanted to make a good show that does nature justice for kids. I feel like most of the great nature television is super geared toward adults, and nature for kids’ media tends to fall at the bottom of the funding bucket. So it can be harder to make a show that captures the beauty of nature just because there’s so much more time and money needed. My top goal was to give a kid-focused show to see nature through a kid’s eyes but making sure it’s as beautiful as the content that adults like. If the nature doesn’t look amazing, then what’s the point?

On teaching kids about climate change

Edwards: It’s important because chopping down trees and ruining animals’ habitats is a real thing in the world, not only in the movies. And sometimes, when you watch nature shows, they can be a bit not really kiddish. This one’s more kiddish, so kids get to watch it. All the primaries at school keep coming up to me like, ‘Oh my goodness, we saw you on TV. We didn’t know this stuff!’ which I’m very happy about. And they always say, ‘Oh wow, you have to make sure you take care of this or else the forest can be ruined!’ [At school] I learned that climate change is heating up our Earth and it’s hurting some animals like polar bears and other animals, but that’s really all I learned. I never learned about why it is happening.

Kyle Cameron from Bird Canada tells Edwards about why Long Point, Ont. is the ultimate pit stop for migrating birds. (Photo: Secrets of the Forest/Fifth Ground Entertainment)
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Peters: I think that kids get a lot of things. They have the message of fighting climate change in the media and in their schools, and that’s definitely important, but we need them to give them a “why.” The why is just because it’s amazing, it’s wild, it’s beautiful. We live here, so we are all connected to it. I think that if we can get kids excited about nature, the idea that we need to protect it is a natural progression.

Edwards: As we get older, newer things come out: newer electronics, newer technology… and that has a big impact on our society. When you go to school, they say carbon is bad, pollution is bad, and it’s hurting our Earth, but kids need a “why.” If younger people get the “why” why we need to help it, then I think it’ll keep impacting our society for years.

On the next generation and Indigenous ways of knowing

Peters: I think that in any kind of nature media, Indigenous perspectives and knowledge are usually the asterisk at the bottom instead of like a part of the story. So, when making the show, incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing was built into what we did from the beginning. In our owl episode, for example, we had to wait for it to get dark to see the owls, and so in that time, we worked with a local leader from Six Nations of the Grand River, and she came in and told a story about the importance of owls. So, really, finding organic ways to include it and some topics led by Indigenous folks. I think we’re all most proud of introducing every location as its Indigenous territory before talking about what it’s called now. So that we’re really acknowledging from the very beginning this is not our land.

Artist Jason Logan teached Edwards how to forage the pigments of the Earth to create ink. (Photo: Secrets of the Forest/Fifth Ground Entertainment)
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Edwards: At my school, they had the land acknowledgement every day to recognize that this isn’t our land. We have to treat it respectfully like First Nations and Indigenous People did, and we’re standing on their land. So we have to respect it and acknowledge that.

Peters: I think that everyone, especially in Canada, that’s making major content, Indigenous perspectives should be baked in from the beginning. It would be strange for me to not because it goes hand in hand. You can’t talk about our land without talking about the people who have been taking care of it for forever. I think it’s good to see in a kid’s show because, hopefully, it’s less of a talking point for our younger generation. You know, like, ‘Whoa, someone did that now,’ but hopefully, they can be like, ‘Well, yeah, of course.’

Edwards finished a busy day of searching for signs of black bears at Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in B.C. (Photo: Secrets of the Forest/Fifth Ground Entertainment)
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On getting out in nature

Peters: I just hope that it gets some kids and adults to choose to go for a walk for a day in their local area. I think that any excitement you give them at a young age is what sticks. There’s a through line in many of the episodes that there’s still so much we don’t know. So, really showing kids that there’s no finish, the book is not over when it comes to this, so you can still be a part of research that learns about mycorrhizal relationships or learn about how to monitor a forest, there’s just so much still left to discover. So it’s worth getting out there and discovering it. I’m a lichen nerd now. I didn’t really even know about lichen, and now I’m like, looking at trees with a magnifying glass an expert gave me, so I hope that adults get a bit of that feeling, too.

Edwards: I’m going to an outdoorsy camp this summer. We can bring our phones, but they’re locked in a pouch until dinnertime. And it’s all outside. The cabins are outside, and to walk to the bathroom, you have to go outside and see nature. My favourite part about being in nature is not being cramped inside all day because I’m not a person who can just sit there on their electronics. I cannot do that. So when I get outside, I’m like, ‘Relief.’

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