At a meeting I attended last week we were asked to share what our communities are doing to strengthen the connection between children and nature. Sad to say, I couldn’t think of a thing.
Since then, I’ve reflected on what I think is lacking. I’ve also realized there is more available than I’d initially thought.
I wish that our school would host a community garden or implement a Farm-to-School program. But it hasn’t and I would be shocked if it did. Likewise, I think more classes could be held outdoors. There is so much more that could be learned outside of the classroom. Science is a no brainer. Kids can study water cycles, weather and all kinds of habitat issues. The list is never ending. But all classes could work well outdoors. Writing, art, and math are all very relevant outdoor topics. Gym class could include snowshoeing or hiking or a number of other activities.
I’ve mentioned before that most parents here drive their kids to school. Actually, I think everyone does except for us. We encourage and sometimes force our kids to walk or ride their bikes when the weather is nice. Our school doesn’t provide bus service in town. This makes sense to me, but when it was implemented a few years ago most of the town parents were up in arms. They thought it would be dangerous for kids to walk to school and so now they drive them. While a walk to school isn’t much, it does provide a daily connection with the outdoors.
While I tend to focus on what is lacking, our kids aren’t completely disconnected from nature.
On the plus side, hunting and fishing are very popular here. Most kids take gun safety courses and hunting is the “in” thing. While I didn’t grow up with guns and at times I worry about safety, I think hunting does help to connect kids with the outdoors. And, so I appreciate its popularity. Fishing is also a common pastime for kids here. It isn’t odd during warm weather to see them standing with their friends near the dam or river holding a fishing rod. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.
In addition, Lake Bronson State Park offers activities like cross country skiing, an ice fishing derby, lake swimming and other programs directed at families. We are fortunate to have this gem close by. I am thankful for all of Minnesota’s state and regional parks and their role in exposing our kids to the outdoors.
I’m relieved that area children have these connections, but there is so much more that we could offer. For the sake of our kids and our society, we need to get the kids outside.
What is your community doing to strengthen the connection between children and nature?