Chief Whitecap Park
Chief Whitecap Park and Flood Plains – off leash area: Learning Affordances from the Land.
Learning affordances are available in any natural area. An affordance is any quality of a thing that offers some kind of value. For example, an apple can offer a nutritional affordance. Or, that same apple might offer an artistic affordance. Almost everything offers learning affordances!
In the on-leash part of the park, you will find a statue of Chief Whitecap whose real name is Wapahaska. The statue serves as a learning affordance, providing textual information about Wapahaska.
Most of the learning affordances in the park are from the land. As you enter the park, take a moment to notice the three different ecosystems: the prairie grassland as you first enter the off-leash area – relatively flat, and mostly grasses; the forested river bank – relatively steep, shady, with moist rich soil and trees and underbrush; and the sand beach/flood plain – with, you guessed it, sand! Puzzle about the factors that contribute to each of these very close areas being each a unique ecosystem.
In each ecosystem, look up, look down, and all around. Listen. Sniff. Feel the textures of the plants, or pick up some soil in your hands, and squish it between your fingers. Smell the soil. Notice the density of plants in the riparian understory. Look at the overall shape of the trees and bushes, branching, leaves, bark, flowers, and twigs. Now would be a great time to pull out your journal, and sketch individual plants, capture the shape of a bush, or show the relationship between tree and understory. If it were winter, and the trees had no leaves or flowers, would you be able to tell the different types of trees? Look for what understory plants live near particular types of trees. Is poison ivy likely to grow near birch, or more likely near poplar? Or both, perhaps? What understory plants are flowering? What do the flowers look like? Are there any signs that animals have been communicating with the plants – through tasting them, or using them for nest material?
The beach/flood plain offers a different set of learning affordances. Where did all this sand come from? Sand allows particular plants to grow, whereas others struggle to grip the ground. Look for the plants, and what other plants grow near them. What animals can you see on the sand – other than dogs enjoying themselves? The earlier you come, the more tracks you will see, and perhaps you will also see the tracks being laid down! If what you have is tracks, no animal in sight, try to figure out the plot of the story that went with the tracks.
Create your own questions based on your interests. The types of questions you ask will support the learning you do. You can learn from the land, without a human teacher. However, do not taste anything unless you know it is edible – consult a knowledgeable human teacher. And get to know poison ivy since it is an unpleasant plant to immerse yourself in.
For further ideas of what questions to ask of the land, check out earlier NatureCity adventure guides here.
– Sandra Walker and Janet McVittie
Things to do at Chief Whitecap off-leash Park
- Walking, hiking, running
- Dog walking, romping, stick wrestling
- Native ecosystem studies
- Native plant studies
- Story telling using tracks as prompts
- Creating a nature journal with notebook and pencil crayons
- Bird and bug watching