ADDICTED TO (OUTSIDE) PLAY- Children and Nature Network Conference June 07 2016, 0 Comments

Knowledge without love will not stick. But if love comes first, knowledge is sure to follow.” — John Burroughs (American naturalist, 1837 – 1921)

The very first time I heard this quote was at the Children and Nature Network Conference two weeks ago and it has stuck with me since.  Six hundred plus educators who share a deep love of nature and children convened to discuss deepening nature connections for kids and families – the passion was infectious, as was the urgency to address how rare these outdoor connections are becoming.  

As a parent, I easily forget about the magic of nature –  I get wrapped up in the flashcard and worksheet routine, and forget that learning is best done by exploration and discovery.  My job is to teach love, kindness and generosity, and to trust that everything else will fall into place – it always does.  

Visiting some wonderful organizations in the Twin Cities who are pioneering break-through work in this area, has inspired me personally to take action, which is why I wanted to share some of this magic with you today.

Frogtown Farm:  An urban certified organic farm in St. Paul

From the planning to development and harvesting of organic crops to the creation of a nature play space for kids – all aspects are community driven with the eventual goal to be a self-sustaining farm. 

What struck me most about this visit was the deep empathy that the organization and volunteers had for the earth and for the community - nature connections foster empathy – for other people, for animals, plants and more (and that empathy can be a difficult concept to “teach” in a traditional classroom setting).   

Sunray Library – a partnership with the Children and Nature Network with an outdoor reading nook, pollinator garden and integrated lessons incorporating nature education.

I immediately recollected a memory as a fifth grader taking my books and drawing tablets outside and reading or writing under my favorite oak tree.  This fond memory was quickly followed up with a “yikes” moment as I’ve never read a book under a tree or anywhere outside with my own kids (ages six and two).  Yes, "mom-guilt" subsequently set-in, but I also recognized this as an opportunity – to understand my own barriers to getting outside, and how I can make nature-play more do-able (and joyful) and not like another “to-do” on the never ending list. 

My takeaway from this conference was to learn to press pause more – put down the flashcards and fall in love with the outdoors again with my kids tagging along this time.

It doesn’t need to be hard – rock gardens, bug watching, dandelion flutes, catching fireflies and more – these will all be on the summer bucket list (and yes – another list, but this one is fun).