Hallways at Robert Bateman Public School were turned into an art gallery, as staff and students prepared for a visit by the man the building is named after.
The 82-year-old renowned Canadian artist and conservationist was at the school on Nov. 6 to discuss the importance of conservation and the simple pleasure of experiencing the outdoors.
“My aim here is to get kids to fall in love with nature,” said Bateman.
Born in Toronto in 1930, Bateman, who lives on Salt Spring Island, B.C., recently established the Bateman Foundation, a national, not-for-profit charity dedicated to education and public service.
The foundation will support educational programs delivered by groups such as the Canadian Wildlife Foundation, Scouts Canada and Parks Canada.
Addressing grade 4 to 6 students, Bateman told the kids it’s important for their parents to take them out to enjoy nature instead of letting them spend most of their time indoors playing video games.
“The average North American kid spends seven hours a day, seven days a week, looking at a screen and no time playing around outside,” he said.
“Parents have to go out and play with nature with their kids. They have to show by example. You can’t show by telling; you have to show by doing.”
He said he was overwhelmed by the artwork produced by the students at the school.
“I enjoyed seeing the artwork upstairs. Keep doing art but also keep going out in nature,” he said.
Some of the drawings included owls, which Bateman said he hopes kids get a chance to see in real life, not just images.
His main message to kids was “get out and enjoy nature and try to avoid junk food.”
“We are building fat bodies with little minds,” he said.
While he is not opposed to digital technology, Bateman said there is a need to find a balance between nature and high-tech devices.
“You can use these hand-held devices to go out in the field and go birding.”
“Nature is wonderful; nature is magic, and it is just so good for the soul and body to be out in nature,” he said.
Students’ questions ranged from what is his favourite type of art to his favourite animal.
“I am humbled and honoured to have this privilege to talk to the boys and girls at Robert Bateman Public School,” he said, adding that he strongly believes that being outside is good for everyone, from toddlers to seniors.
“It is good for the mind, body and spirit.”
Visual arts teacher Monique Doucette said her students stand to learn from Bateman’s presentation.
“We are showing him that we are trying to carry on his name at our school and develop the arts within the school population,” said Doucette.