On an abnormally chilly May 2 morning Grade 8-student Joshua Harper and his classmates from Hugh John MacDonald School are walking around Assiniboine Park, each with digital camera.
They are capturing nature at its rawest. Nothing is in bloom, there are no bright colours, only the geese brave the weather, but Harper still captures the natural beauty in the rough forest floor.
"I’d rather be outside then in a classroom," said 13-year-old Harper, walking near the Duck Pond. "I feel more free than being inside."
The students are there as part of learning about art from nature and in nature. Some will produce poems, photos, painting, and other forms of art that will be entered into the national Get to Know contest.
The Get to Know contest encourages youth 19-and-younger to capture art from nature.
"It was founded in 1999 to get youth outdoors and connecting with their wild neighbours," said Jeff Ramsden, from the Get to Know contest. "Ultimately it was out of concern that youth were more familiar with logos for corporations than able to identify wildlife in their backyards."
The contest launches at 14 different locations across Canada and has even started in the United States.
Assiniboine Park hosted the official Manitoba launch on April 17. Since then, the park has tried to host schools like Harper’s to teach them about nature and art, said Scott Gray, director of park programming.
Gray said the park started getting involved with the contest in 2011 after it started to allow more forms of art.
"They were going away from the sort of traditional ‘draw a picture’ (focus) and we really like that," said Gray. "That connected with the park’s renewed interest with nature education through art."
Harper likes to focus on photography as his art focus.
"I like taking a lot of pictures," said Harper. "I find nature more interesting than animals."
The Get to Know contest runs from April 8 to August 1. Contestants can learn how to submit their artwork, including paintings, poems, photos, videos, or music by visiting get-to-know.org
Winners of the contest are featured in an annual calendar and can win different prizes depending on the form of artwork.