George Woodhouse, Parks Canada

By Mark Campbell

This summer is going to be an epic one for George Woodhouse (BA’14). The Dalhousie alumnus is on a mission to help thousands of Haligonians learn to camp, and he has a lot of ground to cover, so to speak.

As coordinator of Parks Canada’s Halifax Learn to Camp program, Woodhouse and his team will host free workshops for city-dwellers to gain basic camping skills throughout the municipality, which will include a very rare camping excursion to Georges Island.

It is a pretty ambitious goal, but if anyone is up to the task, it is Woodhouse. He has a natural—pardon the pun—ability to connect with people, and that will serve him well as he encourages Haligonians to explore the natural beauty of both our province and our country.

“I believe a connection to nature fosters greater mental health and stewardship of place,” Woodhouse says. “It’s pretty cool that the highest levels of our government are acknowledging the benefits of connecting to nature, and that Parks Canada is being empowered to help all Canadians make this connection for themselves; that’s where stewardship begins.”

Woodhouse’s own passion for environmental stewardship began in part while growing up near Georgian Bay in southwestern Ontario. He recalls how, at the time, he felt somewhat isolated from schoolmates who lived in the city of Owen Sound, but notes that, “I gradually began to feel a strong connection to a place I took for granted, and now we’re finding ways to foster that in an urban setting such as Halifax.”

A natural connection

One method Woodhouse is using to make that connection is music, which not only put him on his career path but is also how his passion for Canada’s national parks blossomed. He recalls collaborating on a rap video about Newfoundland and Labrador’s Gros Morne National Park for a Parks Canada contest, despite never having visited the province.

“My friend had worked in Gros Morne as a summer student, so I wrote a rap based on facts he sent me about the park,” Woodhouse explains. “Even though we shot most of the scenes in Point Pleasant Park here in Halifax, our entry won the contest. It was a bit embarrassing when I was outed on a live CBC Cornerbrook radio show for having never visited the park, but in true Newfoundland and Labrador tradition, they extended an invitation for me to come there.”

During that visit, Woodhouse connected with Parks Canada staff and that inspired him to apply to work with the government agency. His first major assignment was to write a song for its mascot, Parka the beaver, and he subsequently became a Parks Canada youth ambassador, inspiring young people nationwide to engage with Canada’s natural and cultural treasures. Now, he is drawing on his Dalhousie experience to inspire all Haligonians to engage with Parks Canada, and recruiting summer students from the university to assist him in the effort.

George Woodhouse (BA'14), Parks Canada“I feel privileged to be able to connect students with an opportunity to do this kind of work for Canadians, in part because I was a student not so long ago,” Woodhouse says. “Dalhousie played a big part in my own journey. I wouldn’t be doing this job if it weren’t for the skills I gained through a degree in French and Sociology and Social Anthropology.”

Setting the tone

Armed with those skills, Woodhouse seems well prepared to achieve his team’s ambitious goal, and he is particularly excited to be doing so as the nation celebrates its 150th anniversary. “This is a unique opportunity for us to set the tone for what our country will stand for moving forward,” Woodhouse says. “We’re going to do that in a microcosm kind of way with Learn to Camp here in Halifax, so keep an eye out for our tents throughout the municipality this summer.”

But what will Woodhouse do once he has completed his mission? “I believe in the law of attraction, so I’m open to whatever comes along,” he says. “I only hope it somehow involves the opportunity to help others feel welcome in nature and in music. If those ingredients are present, it’s hard to go wrong.”

The Learn to Camp program is taking part across the country. Find out more »