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Since its formation, AFER has been facilitating environmental education experiences in Ontario's old-growth forests. We believe this kind of education is critical for solving environmental issues and protecting our natural world. 

The Catchacoma Forest: An Incredible Environmental Education Experience

Since 2019, AFER has been offering environmental education opportunities in the Catchacoma Old-growth Forest, a unique outdoor classroom for both students and the general public. So far, more than 120 students and 350 members of the public have come to the Forest for these educational experiences.  Interested in bringing your class or group to the Catchacoma Forest for an educational hike with AFER?



"My class was fortunate enough to have an amazing outing to the Catchacoma Old Growth Forest on November 17th. We hiked a loop in from highway 507 towards Pencil Creek and then through a section of Old Growth forest stopping to notice the mixed canopy of trees, the fungi growing off the trunks, to sample wintergreen and marvel at all the moss. Students hugged some really big trees and we learned how to use the DBH tape to estimate the age of these gentle giants."

- Nansi Harris, Teacher of Grade 6 Class from Roger Neilson Public School

The Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS) Class

A major avenue of education and outreach in the Catchacoma Forest over the past three years has been the collaborative partnership between AFER and Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS). YLS is an innovative, experiential-learning program founded by Cameron Douglas and based in Peterborough, Ontario that prepares grades 11 and 12 students for leadership roles in sustainability initiatives at local to global levels.

In 2019, AFER approached the YLS class with the opportunity to engage in citizen science, assessing old-growth features in the Catchacoma Forest, as part of the Peterborough County Old Growth Project. Before their initial visit to the Forest, students received two full days of training – one in the classroom and one in the field—on establishing plots, assessing habitat features and evidence of logging, trees species identification, measuring tree DBH, and evaluating coarse woody debris. With AFER staff direction, students then established and sampled ten plots in the Catchacoma Forest in order to perform rapid assessments of old-growth characteristics. Students provided approximately 550 person-hours of field effort for this project, and from the data they collected, various reports have been written (i.e., Quinby and YLS 2021; Marcus 2023).


Since their initial venture into the Catchacoma Forest, the YLS class has continued to return to the Forest each year. A new group of students joins the program every year and come to know the Forest in their own way, helping AFER with new research projects and advocacy efforts. In 2022, the YLS class had their first ever over-night experience in the Catchacoma Forest, as well as their first ever forest bathing experience, led by Beth Foster. 

The partnership between AFER and YLS has been a very positive force over the past three years. It has brought over 85 students in critical developmental stages of their lives into a unique landscape, where they have learned about old-growth forest ecology, conservation biology, citizen science, forest management, and environmental advocacy.

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