Since childhood, Neil Carleton has had a special interest in all things nature. During his elementary and high school years, his explorations ranged from the microscopic wonders of pond life, to the mysteries of fossils and the night sky. Drawing went hand in hand with observing birds, raising frogs, collecting rocks, and hunting for planets. He was a science fair winner in high school. Neil’s interests in interpreting and conserving the natural world led to art and design courses at college, as well as university studies in science, museums, and education.
His undergraduate and graduate studies in geology and museology focused on public awareness and education in science. Neil worked in Canadian museums for fifteen years, and traveled extensively in all regions of the country as a museums advisor for the governments of Saskatchewan and Canada. He held management positions in major museums across Canada at the national, provincial, and local levels.
After Neil, Lucy, and their young family settled in Almonte, much of his volunteer time was devoted to science and nature projects in his children’s classrooms, or helping young naturalists. His phone would ring too when brownies or cubs needed their astronomy badges. He’s proud to be a founding member of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists.
It was natural for Neil to return to university for teacher qualifications and move into a classroom. He’s an award winning teacher with special interests in science and nature, and making international connections in the classroom. Neil started the recycling and schoolyard greening programs at his school. He also ran the Environmental Club, the Night Sky Club, and the Shortwave Listening and Amateur Radio Club.
Each year at school Neil created special projects to inspire his students, including opportunities to reach out and bring a part of the world, and space, into the classroom. These ranged from ‘The Case Of The Mystery Mail’ exchanges with schools around the world, to growing seeds that were in orbit with Canadian astronaut Marc Garneau. Raising crickets, praying mantis, and Monarch butterflies in the classroom, as well as the sock walk and pond study field trips, were big hits too.
Neil and his students used amateur radio in the classroom to make connections across the curriculum, including contacts with archaeologists, Antarctic scientists, and astronauts. The national Youth Education Program (YEP) of Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) was created with his help.
During his fifteen years in the classroom, Neil and his students were interviewed for international radio programs that were broadcast from Sweden, the U.K., the Netherlands, Switzerland, the U.S.A., Ecuador and New Zealand. Closer to home, you may have heard them on one of the CBC Ottawa programs, on the CBC overnight service, or being interviewed for a national feature. Perhaps you saw them on the CTV news.
Since moving to Almonte in 1983, Neil has volunteered with a variety of projects and organizations to support the community. These include the Almonte Amateur Radio Club, the Dr. James Naismith Basketball Foundation, the Metcalfe Geoheritage Park, the Mill of Kintail, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, and the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum. As a volunteer columnist with The Millstone News, he thoroughly enjoys looking for and hanging out with shady characters.