The big boreal adventure

November 2023

Marilyn Grudniski is on a mission to bring kids up close and personal with nature right here in Thunder Bay – and she’s doing it with style.

For over ten years, Marilyn has created several activities that children and their parents can participate in so they can develop an understanding and respect for the flora and fauna in our beautiful city.

One project, The Big Boreal Adventure, also known as Thunder Bay’s Nature Scavenger Hunt, was created to get people outside and have fun exploring the natural spaces in our city all year round. It involves a scavenger hunt where participants search for 38 posts, with plaques designed by local artists, scattered throughout the city. Once a post is found, the participant uses one of the many blank pages in a guidebook to do a post rubbing with a pencil or crayon. There is room in the book for rubbings of all 38 posts, encouraging families to search out each of these lovely destinations.

“It’s a perfect way to get kids to nag their parents to go outside more, as the kids want to find every post in the city so they can fill the guidebook,” Marilyn laughs.

The free guidebook is available at the Little Lions Waldorf Child and Family Centre main office at 211 Clarke St. or by calling 807-344-2283. It can also be downloaded from their website at or picked up at any of Thunder Bay’s public libraries. The book offers information, in French and English, about each site, as well as clues to help people locate the next post in their adventure.

Every other year, Marilyn also creates a children’s story walk that focuses on a different theme of nature. On each walk are several posts that hold a plaque that looks like the opened page of a story book. Marilyn works to create the plaques using art work of local artists including Shaun Hedican and Ryan Pooman.

The current walk at Vickers Park hosts Victor the squirrel and teaches children about the life cycle of a squirrel. Next year, the walk will feature a new story and gives children the chance to learn and develop a respect for our six-legged friends, the insects.

To help cover the costs of the plaques and books, Mike Southon, of the Thunder Bay Carvers, has spear-headed a fundraiser that has his fellow carvers whittling their hearts out, creating one-of-a-kind Christmas decorations, tree ornaments, and fridge magnets of the mascot of the Big Boreal Adventure, “Jack Pine”. The character, a whimsical pinecone who often wears a toque, is the spokesperson, or should we say spokespinecone, of the books, and guides children on their adventures through the woods, sharing his knowledge of nature and encouraging children to look after his friends in the forest.

“Thunder Bay certainly has its share of natural spaces,” Marilyn says. “And this is a great way to get children outside, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying these beautiful places.”

If you would like to support this worthwhile project, you can purchase the carvings by emailing Lindsay Gaw-Martin at

Editors note: Special thanks to Murray Hinter for creating this fundraiser and Mike Southon for partnering with him to carry it through.

Donna White is an accomplished author and Jubilee Medal winner for her volunteer work with World Vision. Visit her website at

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