The Macdonald High School Nature Club

by Dan Mullins

To say that students and staff in the Nature Club at Mac share a love of nature probably comes as no surprise. This spring, they also share a space during most lunchtimes, as well as fellowship – they relate easily and comfortably to one another, cracking jokes, and mentioning each other’s preferences and foibles in a good-natured way. They share a sense of belonging.

Membership is open to all and currently stands at a dozen or so students. On a beautiful late-spring day in early June, they received their new club shirts. The long-sleeve tees are Kelly green, and emblazoned with the club’s logo – a stout oak tree with the words Mac Nature Club below it, surrounded by a bird, bat, bee, horse and a star. They were excited to receive them and put them on within minutes of receiving them.

Having recently taken a trip to A Horse Tale Rescue (a horse rescue and registered charity in Vaudreuil) the students were eager to talk about it. 

“All the horses there were going to be put down!” 

“My best friend’s mom runs the horse rescue!” 

“Did you know that Ms. Blackburn volunteers there?”

Ms. Blackburn, of course, is Diane Blackburn. She is the heart of the club and is an integration aid at Mac. Helping out with the club are Maria Cavaiuolo, a library technician, and Maria Destounis, another integration aide. Blackburn notes that the club currently meets during lunch hour instead of after school like it did in the past. This format can make things seem very compressed as students eat before activities get underway. The change is due to measures put in place during the pandemic and represents an improvement: Katherine Lindsay, a Grade 8 student, points out that this is her first year in Nature Club “because there was no Nature Club last year.” She says she has every intention of taking part again next year.

The club has been raising butterflies, and they’re getting close release day. How many Painted Lady butterflies are in the habitat? Well, it depends on who you ask. Lindsay counted ten. Her fellow club member Hannah Hillrich suggested it was eleven. According to the official count on that day, Hillrich was correct. However, Blackburn pointed out that in fact there are twenty-two, counting the ones that had yet to emerge from their chrysalis.

A Fly-Away Event for all twenty-two of the now-hatched painted ladies was held on Tuesday, June 14th. The event featured a song written for the occasion by Lindsay and Sarah Demsey. Lindsay sang and Demsey accompanied her on guitar, an instrument she first picked up four years ago. The lyrics of the song, entitled Wish on a Butterfly reflect on the insects’ beauty and fragility.

There are many creatives in the club. Often, activities they do are creative in nature. For example, a papier-mâché planet earth that was constructed for Earth Day and a ladder entitled “Steps to a Better World” on which every rung is a message about sustainability and the environment. One student, Dilum Ethige Silva, recently wrote and illustrated a book entitled Frozen 28: Magicita.

The club also has a garden plot, takes trips to the Ecomuseum, the Morgan Arboretum, and the Macdonald Farm at the nearby McGill Campus. They encourage recycling and other environmentally friendly practices. They support each other’s eco-practices like when Lindsay found a goose egg and incubated it until hatching and then donated the hatchling to a wildlife sanctuary.

The kindness of the students who take part in the club is obvious and their earnest ecological efforts are inspiring. With young people like these, we can all wish on a butterfly and hope for a greener future.