Member Spotlight: Focus on Nature

Focus on Nature pic

by Katie Wilde

Today is #GivingTuesday, and for our Member Spotlight, we’d like to share with you about an organization in which the spirit of giving is very much alive.

No one says it better than Simon Bell, Executive Director of Focus on Nature:

“From the beginning a core concept of Focus on Nature was to awaken a love of nature in children. An appreciation of the arts has always been an important way of discovering beauty in the natural world. Put a camera in the hands of a young person, show them how to shoot a well-composed image of nature and you open their eyes to new ways of seeing. “I never knew what a tree looked like before.” “I love exploring my backyard with my camera as soon as I get home.” These are some of the comments we receive from kids who have taken the day-long Focus on Nature workshop. A window of creative possibilities is opened, often for the first time, and the young photo artists are very proud of their work.

As a volunteer-driven organization we bring the community into the classroom. Volunteer mentors share their love of the arts, of science, of photography, and the joy of being outdoors, with the class. We are building bridges between generations that help build bridges to an appreciation of the natural world.

We teach them how to find the beauty of nature in their own neighbourhood, and then how to share that with their friends, families and community. Recently, the Guelph General Hospital Foundation commissioned 60 of the students’ photos as a tribute to their retiring CEO. These photos now hang permanently on the hospital walls to forever brighten the lives of patients, visitors and staff alike. The idea that their work will make a positive difference in other people’s lives is something that the students won’t soon forget.” – Simon Bell, from their article “A Dream Come True”, generously written as part of our 40th Anniversary celebrations.

Photo Courtesy of Focus on Nature

A recent email from Focus on Nature contained a moving quote from a teacher whose class had benefited from the program:

“My students are all learning disabled and struggle with reading and writing tasks. They are reluctant to try and persevere at new things and often have trouble socially. They quickly became involved and learned that anyone, no matter their skill level or experience, can take pictures of nature.

An appreciation and love for the arts is so necessary to allow a child to explore his/her own strengths fully. It is my belief that by giving children the experience to explore the arts leads to more well-balanced, intelligent adults.

Thank you Focus on Nature for a truly wonderful experience for my needy students.

I happen to know several people who volunteer with FoN, and so I have the privilege of a little extra insight. What strikes me most about the program is how many lives it touches, from the students to the volunteers, teachers, parents, and the wider community. Consider also the future community that these kids, who come from all walks of life, comprise as they grow older. They are looking at nature differently. There is a real sense of the marriage of technology with being present in the moment and enjoying time outdoors in backyard nature – concepts that are thought to be polar opposites in our digital-social age. All while embracing digital media and learning relevant skills – artistic, technological and social. Such a shift in perspective, minor though it may seem at the time, can have major ramifications rippling into the future.

This is an echo to Simon’s call. You can help strengthen Focus on Nature’s ability to make a real difference in young people’s lives.

“Here are examples of what your gift can provide:

  • $30 provides one student with a workshop
  • $60 provides two students with a workshop
  • $100 provides the supplies necessary to host one workshop
  • $150 provides one camera for students to use in workshops
  • $500 provides one laptop for students to use in workshops”

How to donate:

  1. A monthly contribution or a one-time donation through Canada Helps
  2. by mail to Focus on Nature, PO Box 1601, Guelph, ON N1H 6R7,

“With your help Focus on Nature will continue building children’s confidence in their creative abilities and inspire them to see the wonders of the natural world around them.” – Simon Bell

Happy #GivingTuesday! Don’t call the day over until you check out our November Artful Pledge Update, where we make it super easy for you to donate to the many arts charities and non-profits represented in our membership:

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