A popular community destination, The Newfoundland Herald speaks with Dr. Rod Taylor about Manuels River and their educational, yet fun, interpretation centre.
Located in CBS and traversing almost 10 kilometres of terrain before emptying into the open waters nearby, is Manuels River. Whether it be to take a nice walk on the picturesque trails along the river, or bringing your kids for a quick dunk on the flats during a hot summer’s day, it’s the perfect hidden treasure in the community.
Home to ancient trilobite fossils, natural waterfalls and some interesting geology, it’s no doubt that Dr. Rod Taylor hit a gold mine, or shall we say fossil mine, when he joined the Manuels River Interpretation Centre.
“I grew up here in the area. I went to Memorial, took biology in University and then moved away to Europe and did a PhD in palaeontology. I actually studied fossils in the Netherlands for four years with fieldwork in China, and then I moved to the UK and did some more work at the university over there in Cambridge, and stayed there for fifteen years,” Dr. Taylor shared in an interview with The Newfoundland Herald.
“My father passed away about four years ago, so we started to come back to visit with him. Diane, my wife who I met and married in England, came back here and fell in love with the place. We just decided, where would we rather be? We ended up back in Newfoundland. Strangely, I live about 10 doors down from where I grew up.”
Dr. Taylor is one of two lead science interpreters at the Manuels River Interpretation Centre. The centre itself has only been active since 2013. Apart from being somewhat of a museum, they also run lots of school programming throughout the year.
“What we do here is education based, particularly for kids but essentially for anybody. We do a lot of educational programming which is curriculum linked, so during the fall and in the spring in particular we have a lot of school groups that come through here and do educational programs running from kindergarten up through to grade 12,” Dr. Taylor explained.
“Now we do a program for CNA as well, which is a college in St. John’s. These are all programs that are directly linked to their school curriculum. We offer programs directly related to what they’re covering in class, so they come here and do work that’s actually graded as a part of their school work.”
Don’t get me wrong, classrooms are great and have many influencing factors that trigger an educational vibe to motivate learning. However, it can get repetitive and mentally exhausting to constantly be in the same place, this is why it’s fantastic to take field trips in order to learn in a new environment with new point of views and a different atmosphere.
Exhibits and Programs
“Getting out of the classroom gives them such a different context. When they come to a centre like this they get a chance to interact on a different level, with not only the classmates but with other people. 90 per cent of what we do here is aimed at public education and trying to make people appreciate that you can learn and you can have fun at the same time,” Dr. Taylor shared.
“In our exhibits, we look at the geological history and the palaeontology on the river. We have a deposit and an exposure of rocks that are approximately 500 million years old. We also have a display where we look at modern ecology on the river, so the animals and plants that we currently see living. For every school program that we do, we have an outdoor component. We have fascinating encounters out there too, we have two families of bald eagles down on the river, and twice we encountered a moose. The kids really do respond to that in a great way, as do adults to be perfectly honest.”
The Manuels River Interpretation Centre is not only for children and students, they offer an abundance of adult programming as well. From trivia nights and comedy nights, to dinner and a movie sessions and pottery making workshops, adults with or without children are welcomed to come by and engage as well.
“We’re making an effort to also engage the adults in the community, on a more grown up level at the same time. Essentially try to encourage the community to get out and do things in and around the community. We’re really doing our best to try and get everybody in the community involved.”
Coming in March, Manuels River Interpretation Centre will be launching a giant NL floor map highlighting the rich geography of the province and meeting specific curriculum expectations with students in a fun and engaging way.
The map, from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, is being paid for through funding from the Hibernia Management and Development Company.