Have you ever driven along a 10 kilometre stretch of road at 10 kilometres an hour for 10 hours straight in the middle of winter? No, just us? 

Anyway, here we were, in the winter seven years ago, looking for the elusive Canada lynx and failing miserably.

As people do when they’re bored out of their mind, we began discussing what ills our society. Like a stubborn string hanging from a favourite sweater, we started pulling at the thread of the problems facing Canada.

And pulling it. And pulling it.

Before we knew it, a wee little string ended up unravelling the whole darn sweater; what we thought were a couple of isolated problems, we began to realize, were interconnected and serious and eroding the democracy of the place we love and call home.  

And when you’re cold and bored and startled by a sudden realization, there is only one thing you can do: Pull out the trusty stack of Post-It notes, a sharpie and design Nature Labs. 

That, friends, is how Nature Labs was born. And, now, seven years later – SEVEN YEARS – we are on the brink of crossing the finish line. Well, the start line really, as completing the Nature Labs platform is really just about starting a much bigger journey as we push towards our goal of advancing nature literacy and creating a more thoughtful society.

But to get to this point? We had a few hurdles to clear.

Chocolate – our original main character for the project – disappeared on day three of production and then some really weird stuff happened. There was a bad car accident. A concussion. Another concussion. We had a fire and a flood in our apartment. Our home lost essential services and we had to move. Our new apartment lost essential services; we had to move again. Our next apartment’s rent increased by 50%; we moved for the third time in 15 months. Plus, there was that whole global pandemic thing, a round of nasty long-haul COVID, a rare neurological disorder, multiple family health crises, the family dog ran away (twice)…

You can’t make this stuff up.

Like Nature Labs itself, this wasn’t a simple journey. And if we knew how hard it would be, who knows if we’d actually have taken the plunge. But we did and here we are. Our dream has almost become a reality.

Since we first partnered with BC Parks and created our initial storyboard in November 2018, we’ve averaged 15 hours of work a day, 365 days a year,to build this mammoth beast. 

What we produced? It is an experiment. It’s the by-product of our passion and drive to do our part to help find new answers to old problems. And, yes, we followed an unusual path – one that didn’t follow the tried-and-true rituals of Silicon start-ups – in the hopes we could avoid political trip wires, adhere to the curricula of 13 different jurisdictions and create something relevant and fresh for both students and teachers, no matter where they live and no matter their world view.

Nature Labs isn’t perfect because, as you we have so clearly demonstrated, we’re not perfect. 

But it’s our sincere hope that the foundation we have nearly finished will be a chance to test and refine our vision; a chance to grow our team and augment our skills; a chance to take what we have and enhance it in ways you want to see. 

We’ve tried to tell nature stories in new ways – tried to make Nature Labs a little more TikTok than David Attenborough. And we’ve never allowed others to influence what students will see; we haven’t and never will tell students what to think.

We hope this tool makes education more exciting, more fun, more relevant. We hope students will see the connections between what can be boring, dry curricula and real-world issues. We hope students will better understand why nature matters – why every decision we make every single day interconnects and impacts nature and our future in ways big and small.

Mostly, we hope we’ve helped challenge and empower a new generation to be better stewards and citizens, today and every day. Because that’s nature literacy and that’s our dream. And thanks to you, we’re one step closer to realizing it. We’re forever grateful.

Simon & Jill